What we know so far about the California oil spill

The volume of the spill is paltry compared to some of the largest such incidents in the United States, such as the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989 and the Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010, although the extent of the spill The spill would not be known for several weeks, a local official said.

Monday, Governor Gavin Newsom proclaimed a state of emergency due to the spill. “The state is preparing to cut red tape and mobilize all available resources to protect public health and the environment,” he said in a statement.

Here’s what we know so far about the spill and its impact on the local environment and nearby residents.

The breach occurred about 5 miles off the coast of Huntington Beach in Orange County, local officials said.

The oil spill is the equivalent of about 3,000 barrels – or 126,000 gallons – of post-production crude. The size of the spill was reported to be around 13 square miles, the The coast guard said on Sunday.

As of Sunday evening, about 3,150 gallons of oil had been removed from the water and more than a mile of oil dams – floating barriers designed to contain an oil spill – were deployed, the U.S. Coast Guard said.

When did the leak start?

It is not known when the leak started, but authorities were told of reports on Friday evening of an oil burst, more than 12 hours before Amplify Energy Corp., the operator of the line, did so. reports to state and federal authorities, according to documents reviewed by CNN. .

In an interview with CNN on Monday, Amplify CEO Martyn Willsher said a shard was detected by company staff on Saturday morning, not Friday evening. Willsher said there was equipment to detect the leak without visibly seeing the oil spills, but there had been no notice of a potential leak in the pipeline until Saturday.

Since then, the Coast Guard and the Huntington Beach Police Department have sent planes to access the situation, the Coast Guard said. The agency also established a unified command to respond to the spill.

What was the cause?

A bird swings on a boom, a temporary floating barrier to contain oil that seeped into Talbert Marsh, home to about 90 species of birds, after a 126,000 gallon oil spill from a offshore oil rig on October 3.

The cause of the leak is not yet known and divers have inspected the 17-mile pipeline to try to find its exact source.

The Federal Office of Safety and Environmental Enforcement was helping “to identify the location and source of any spill and providing technical assistance to the Unified Command to stop the spill,” the agency said in a report on Sunday. communicated.

The National Transportation Safety Board said it sent investigators to gather information and assess the source of the oil leak.

The pipeline was “sucked at both ends to prevent entry of additional crude,” Willsher said, adding that he did not expect more oil to be released.

What is the impact so far?

A dead fish is seen after an oil spill in Huntington Beach, Calif., On Monday, October 4.

The oil spill coated neighboring areas with oil, closed beaches, threatened wildlife habitats and potentially injured people.

Local governments have taken steps to keep people away from polluted areas.

Sections of the Huntington Beach shoreline were closed over the weekend, Orange County health officials advised residents to avoid recreational activities on the shoreline, the town of Laguna Beach closed its beaches on Sunday evening and Newport Beach advised people to avoid contact with seawater and beaches. impacted by oil.

The extent of the ecological damage remains to be seen.

Orange County supervisor Katrina Foley said on Sunday dead birds and fish were washing up on the shore.

“The oil has seeped through all of the (Talbert) wetlands. There are significant impacts on the wildlife there,” she said. “These are wetlands that we’ve been working with with the Army Corps of Engineers, with a (local) land trust, with all community wildlife partners to ensure we’ve been creating this beautiful natural habitat for decades. And now, in just one day, it is completely destroyed. “

Speaking to CNN on Monday, Foley noted that the extent of the damage will only be known in a few weeks.

Field crews in the spill area found four oil-injured birds, a number an official said on Monday was not as severe as expected.

“In our initial assessment of the area, the number of birds in the general area appears to be lower than we feared,” said Dr Michael Ziccardi, veterinarian at UC Davis and director of the California Oiled Wildlife Care Network. . “At this point, we are cautiously optimistic about the number of animals that could be affected.”

Who is responsible?

Workers in boats attempt to clean up oil floating near gulls in the Talbert Marshes as a spill of 3,000 barrels of oil, about 126,000 gallons, from an offshore oil rig hits shore and sensitive wildlife habitat in Newport Beach, Calif., October 3, 2021.
Amplify Energy, owner of the pipeline, is a small independent company with 222 employees at the end of 2018, the last time it reported the size of its staff in a company file. Its most recent financial report shows sales of $ 153 million, with cumulative losses of $ 54.4 million through the end of June.

The company was working with local, state and federal agencies on recovery efforts, said Willsher, the Amplify executive.

“Our employees live and work in these communities, and we are all deeply touched and concerned about the impact not only on the environment, but also on fish and wildlife,” he said. “We will do everything in our power to have this recovered as quickly as possible, and we will not do so until it is concluded.”

Facilities operating the pipeline were built in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and are inspected every two years, including during the pandemic, he said.

CNN’s Stella Chan, Susannah Cullinane, Claudia Dominguez, Chris Isidore, Cheri Mossburg, Joe Sutton and Sonnet Swire contributed to this report.

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