Multiple oil sheens were spotted off the coast of Orange County on Wednesday and Thursday, but officials are at a loss to explain the source. 

The first oil sheen was reported in the water off the coast of Bolsa Chica State Beach around 7 p.m. Wednesday night by the U.S. Coast Guard.

The oil was spotted about half a mile off the coast last night, but attempts to assess its size by plane and boat crews were ineffective overnight. Coast Guard officials said via Twitter they would work to protect the Talbert Marsh and Bolsa Chica coast.

As of 1:00 p.m. Thursday, Huntington Beach officials say the sheen is roughly 60 feet by 450 feet.

The sheen’s position off of Bolsa Chica puts it further north than previous spills in the area, which started along the Huntington Beach and Huntington State Beach coastlines. 

While conducting flyovers to assess the first spill on Thursday morning, officials spotted a second sheen two miles south of the Huntington Beach Pier according to state Senator Dave Min. 

State Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie Norris said in a tweet that protective booms are being deployed Thursday morning in Huntington Beach.

No oil has impacted the coast according to Min, and protective booms are in place around the Talbert Marsh and Santa Ana River, with lab testing underway to determine the origin of the oil. 

This is the third time Orange County has had to handle an oil leak in the last three months, following over 25,000 gallons spilling from a pipeline in October off the coast of Huntington Beach that saw the county’s beachfront closed for over a week with the largest local spill in over a decade. 

[Read: Orange County Beaches Begin Reopening Following Oil Spill, Cleanup is Ongoing]

The second oil sheen was spotted on November 20, but was patched quickly, with officials blaming the leak on the wrapping used to seal off the pipe from the first spill in October. Since rewrapping the pipeline nearly a month ago, there haven’t been any other reported leaks. 

[Read: Oil May Be Leaking Off Orange County’s Coast For The Second Time This Year]

The oil sheen observed by helicopter Dec. 16, 2021. Photo Courtesy of Supervisor Katrina Foley.

The new oil sheen comes on the heels of federal prosecutors announcing criminal negligence charges against Amplify Energy Wednesday afternoon, the company which managed the pipeline responsible for the October leak. 

[Read: Federal Prosecutors Criminally Charge Amplify Energy Over OC Oil Spill]

The indictment alleges the oil rig operators had eight alarms overnight telling them oil was spiling, but the company says their equipment told them oil was leaking on the platform while it was actually leaking four miles away underwater. 

If convicted, the company could face millions of dollars in potential fines.

[Click here to read the federal indictment.]


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