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Oil slick from Elly pipeline spill on October 4, 2021 (Photo: YouTube screenshot)

Oil Spill Off Coast of Huntington Beach Threatens Wildlife, Local Economy

Several factors for cause of spill include pipe age to being struck by a passing ship’s anchor

By Evan Symon, October 4, 2021 3:42 pm

An oil spill off the coast of Huntington Beach continued to send more oil to the shore on Monday after an oil rig pipeline ruptured sometime last Friday.

According to several sources, including the Coast Guard and the city of Huntington Beach, the leak occurred in a pipeline connecting the Port of Long Beach with the Houston-based Amplify Energy owned Elly oil production platform and the Ellen drilling platform. The leak began sometime on Friday but was not officially called as a leak by the Coast Guard until Saturday afternoon, when they spotted a large oil slick off the coast. While Amplify shut everything down and stopped the leak that evening before it could the levels of other large oil spills in US history such as the 1910 Lakeview Gusher in Kern County, the 4,900 barrel-sized Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010, or the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill, a substantial amount of oil still escaped. Preliminary estimates have shown that about 3,000 barrels, or around 126,000 gallons, of post-production crude oil seeped out, covering an area of 13 square miles.

While cleanup efforts were quickly coordinated and an investigation launched, oil began coming ashore in Huntington Beach on Sunday morning, with many nearby beaches, including Laguna Beach, also shutting down late Sunday.

By Monday oil continued to wash ashore as cleanup crews raced against the clock to protect as much wildlife as possible and to mitigate the spill as best as they could.

Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley. (Photo: katrinafoley.com)
“The oil has infiltrated the entirety of the Talbert wetlands,” noted Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley on Sunday. “There’s significant impacts to wildlife there. Dead birds and fish have been washing up on shore. These are wetlands that we’ve been working with the Army Corps of Engineers, with a local land trust, with all the community wildlife partners to make sure to create this beautiful, natural habitat for decades. And now in just a day, it’s completely destroyed.”

In a statement on Sunday, the city of Huntington Beach put the blame on drilling equipment supplier Beta Offshore and warned of areas to avoid.

“Approx. 126,000 gallons of oil leaked from a broken pipeline and are entering HB beaches and wetlands,” said the city. “Beta Offshore is responsible for the spill and is working with the Incident Management Team on repairs and cleanup efforts. The City will work to ensure the responsible parties do everything possible to rectify this environmental disaster. Our ocean and shorelines are closed indefinitely, FROM SEAPOINT TO THE SANTA ANA RIVER JETTY. Please do not enter the shoreline or water. Protecting our wetlands is one of our highest priorities. The City has deployed over 2,000 feet of protective booms at 7 locations. However, we are seeing oiled wildlife wash ashore.”

Environmental, economic worries

While many environmental groups have been fretting over the environmental impact, others are now worried about the economic impact, as the beaches in Orange County play a large factor in the local economies. Some large events, such as the last day of the Pacific Airshow, were cancelled, sending away tens of thousands of visitors to the area.

With oil expected to keep washing on shore for days and the oil expecting to close beaches for at least the next several weeks, if not months, locals are not optimistic about the situation.

“Of course this happened,” said Lorraine Bishop, a local art business owner, to the Globe on Monday. “Except for those coming to clean up and people coming to gawk at it, we have no one. For the last two years we’ve have COVID, shutdowns, restrictions, and now an oil spill. It doesn’t make you feel confident in our recovery. We’re going to lose out big here.”

Huntington Beach Mayor Kim Carr also noted the huge impact that the spill will bring locally on Sunday.

“In a year that has been filled with incredibly challenging issues this oil spill constitutes one of the most devastating situations that our community has dealt with in decades,” Carr said. “We are doing everything in our power to protect the health and safety of our residents, our visitors and our natural habitats.”

The cause of the spill, which happened about 5 miles off the coast of Orange County, is currently under investigation, with several factors, from pipe age to the pipeline being struck by a passing ship’s anchor, currently being considered as causes.

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