The ongoing California oil spill has seen at least 126,000 gallons of crude oil spread across the Pacific Ocean and onto the beachside city of Huntington Beach. 

What is Happening?

One of the largest oil spills in recent California history has left a number of fish and birds dead, popular beaches covered in petroleum, as well as wetlands contaminated, according to officials. 

First reported on the Saturday morning of October 2, at least 126,000 gallons, or 3,000 barrels of oil has now spread across 13 square miles of the Pacific Ocean, with the US Coast Guard working around-the-clock to clean up the spill. Efforts have already seen a total of 1,218 gallons of oily water mixture recovered from the spill but the leak has yet to be stopped as of Sunday morning. 

The spill was caused by a breach that occurred about eight kilometres off the Huntington Beach stretching down into Newport Beach, an area popular with surfers and sunbathers. The mayor of Huntington Beach Kim Carr stated in a press conference that the spill is an “environmental catastrophe” and a “potential ecological disaster”. An official county statement adds, “The spill has significantly affected Huntington Beach, with substantial ecological impacts occurring at the beach and at the Huntington Beach Wetlands.”

Black tar has been reported to spread across the beaches, resulting in large areas to be closed off to the public, and seagulls covered in sticky oil have been spotted washed ashore. Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley also tweeted out that Newport Beach mayor, Brad Avery, encountered dolphins swimming through the oil while traveling on a boat back to the mainland from Santa Catalina Island.

Decades of conservation efforts have been dedicated to the Talbert Wetlands where the county has been working closely with Army Corps of Engineers, the Land Trust, and community wildlife partners, in preserving the natural habitat that supports a number of wildlife. “And now in just a day, it’s completely destroyed,” said Foley. 

The pipeline in question, which pumps heavy crude oil, is said to be connected to the Elly oil rig owned by Houston-based oil and gas company Amplify Energy. The company announced that the oil pipe has been shut off and remaining oil sanctioned out. They are committed to investigating the cause of the leak and working with numerous local, state and federal agencies on recovery efforts.

Oil production off California’s coast has plummeted since its peak in the 1990s, in part due to the state’s strict environmental rules, while the Governor of California Gavin Newsom has previously made plans to eliminate oil drilling in the state by 2045.

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Featured image by: Andrew Schmidt/Public Domain Pictures