Coast Guard officials are investigating reports of an oily sheen near the pipeline that released 25,000 gallons of crude oil earlier this year off the Orange County and San Diego coasts.
Officials from the Amplify Energy Corporation, whose pipeline was the source of the earlier spill, say the pipeline is still completely turned off as of 1:54 p.m. Saturday but declined to comment any further, saying they were working on a statement.
An update from Coast Guard officials just after 3 p.m. Saturday said the sheen has now faded from the water, and that officials would be monitoring the line overnight to ensure a new syntho-glass wrap on the broken pipe was working properly.
While it’s still unclear whether or not the pipeline was responsible for the new sheen, county supervisor Katrina Foley said that divers found oil droplets on the old wrapping on the pipe that was replaced today.
“They discovered the sheen because of some work being done out there already with assessments taking place,” Foley said in a call with Voice of OC Saturday afternoon. “There were divers conducting assessments, and the divers discovered there were some droplets on the wrapping material that was wrapping the pipeline.”
The first reports of the oil sheen came at around 10 a.m. according to Coast Guard Petty Officer Richard Brahm, roughly three hours before local public officials were alerted.
The three hour delay lines up almost perfectly with the agency’s response to the October oil spill.
According to Huntington Beach City Manager Oliver Chi, the first reports of that spill came in over three hours before Coast Guard officials alerted the 1.5 million people along the shore watching the Pacific Airshow via Twitter.
The agency’s next update didn’t come until almost midnight that night, and didn’t mention that oil had already reached Orange County shores hours earlier.
While initial reports of the spill came in around 10:00 a.m., they were first announced by local officials around 1:00 p.m. before Coast Guard officials published any information half an hour later.
When asked why it took that long to notify the public, Brahm declined to comment, but said the agency always wants to “verify information and work with all our local, county and state partners.”
“Once notified, we launched assets to figure out what’s going on and in this case it appears we didn’t locate the reported sheen,” Brahm said in a text to Voice of OC. “So we kept searching.”
An email from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife sent to local public officials around 1 p.m. on Saturday afternoon said the agency was “investigating a 30’ x 70’ sheen in the vicinity of the damaged pipeline.”.
The source of the sheen is unknown, and no other oil had been found as of 1 p.m.
In a phone call with Voice of OC, Coast Guard Petty Officer Richard Brahm confirmed that a “light sheen,” had been reported and that the email had their most up to date information.
“We have teams en route to assess what was going on,” Brahm said.
The new report of oil comes just weeks after Orange County largely wrapped up its response to the roughly 25,000 gallon crude oil spill off the coast of Huntington Beach and Newport Beach, after Coast Guard investigators found a damaged pipeline operated by the Amplify Energy Corporation.
County Supervisor Katrina Foley, whose district holds the cities of Huntington Beach and Newport Beach, was the first to post about the new spill, promising new information would be coming as the day unfolded and that she had asked the Coast Guard for more information.
State Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris, who chairs the state’s select committee investigating the spill, sent out a similar message to Foley on her Twitter page with a promise for more information later in the day.
Huntington Beach Press Information Officer Jennifer Carey said the city was notified by the Coast Guard with the same information as Foley and Petrie-Norris, and that they had their own helicopter surveying the area.
“(The Coast Guard) are monitoring the situation and they will be updating us as they get more details,” Carey said in a phone call with Voice of OC. “We have as a precautionary measure have our oil spill response team on standby along with all our equipment.”
Orange County politicians and residents have already jumped on the newly reported sheen as another sign the state needs to end any offshore drilling.
“This is not a sequel anyone wanted,” tweeted California State Senator Dave Min, whose district holds the cities of Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach and Newport Beach. “Where there’s drilling, there’s going to be spilling.”
Congressman Mike Levin, who represents the city of San Clemente and the northern edge of San Diego County, jumped in minutes later.
“The only foolproof way to stop these incidents is to end offshore drilling in California,” Levin tweeted.
Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter @NBiesiada.
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