A massive oil spill has occurred off the coast of Southern California. According to a statement from the City of Huntington Beach, at least 126,000 gallons of oil escaped from a broken pipeline that was connected to an offshore oil platform known as Elly, which sits about 8.5 miles off Long Beach. The Associated Press called it “one of the largest oil spills in recent Southern California history.”
The oil slick forced officials to close beaches from the Huntington Beach Pier nearly four miles south to the Santa Ana River jetty. “The spill has significantly affected Huntington Beach, with substantial ecological impacts occurring at the beach and at the Huntington Beach Wetlands,” the statement from the city read.
The oil reached beaches on Sunday, bringing dead birds and fish with it. The U.S. Coast Guard has been deployed, and skimmers and floating oil booms are being used to try and keep any more oil from getting into the ecologically sensitive wetlands in the area, as well as into the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley told the AP that the smell of oil is strong.“You get the taste in the mouth just from the vapors in the air,” she said.
According to the federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, the pipeline and platform it is connected to is operated by the Beta Operating Company, which is owned by Amplify Energy Corporation, an oil outfit based in Houston, Texas.
As of this reporting, the leak has not been fully stopped, but “preliminary patching has been completed to repair the oil spill site.” More repairs are planned as soon as possible. On Saturday night, officials called a press conference and explained just how important it is to stop the oil before it hits the Orange County wetlands. “We’ve been working with our federal, state and county partners to mitigate the impact that could be a potential ecological disaster,” Huntington Beach Mayor Kim Carr said.
This is far from the first time California has been impacted by an oil spill. The worst in recent memory struck Refugio State Beach in Santa Barbara in 2015. An estimated 143,000 gallons of oil were released into the ocean when a pipeline ruptured.