Los Angeles: A massive oil spill off the Orange County coast in Southern California has prompted the closure of a 9-km long beachfront area.
Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley told local KTLA news channel on Sunday that the incident was first reported a day earlier and oil was still leaking about 8.05 km off the coast of Huntington Beach from the broken pipeline, reports Xinhua news agency.
“It’s still leaking and the responsible party for this is underway right now trying to repair the leak from the pipeline,” Foley said, referring to the platform Elly, a facility sitting in federal waters off the Los Angeles County coast and processing crude oil production from two other platforms.
All these platforms are located on top of a large reservoir of crude oil known as the Beta Field, which sits in waters overseen by the US Department of the Interior.
The spill, equal to about 126,000 gallons of post-production crude, is a “potential ecological disaster”, Huntington Beach Mayor Kim Carr told CNN .
The US Coast Guard (USCG) said in a statement that a unified command, consisting of Beta Offshore, the Coast Guard, and Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) from CDFW, had been established to respond to the incident.
“Members of the public are asked to avoid any oiled areas. Trained spill response contractors are working to clean up oil. Public volunteers are not needed and could hinder response efforts. We request that members of the public stay away from the area,” the statement said, adding that the cause of the spill, volume and type of oil are under investigation.
The oil slick was “reported to be approximately 33.7 sq.km in size, about 4.82 km off Newport Beach”, the USCG said in an earlier twitter.
Local authorities urged people to avoid the beach areas around Huntington Beach and Newport Beach, saying “the spill has significantly affected Huntington Beach, with substantial ecological impacts occurring at the beach and at the Huntington Beach Wetlands”.
By Sunday morning, “we’ve started to find dead birds & fish washing up on the shore”, Foley tweeted.
Debbie McGuire, executive director of the Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center in Huntington Beach, was quoted by the local newspaper Orange County Register that staff in the centre had prepared masks, goggles and IV fluids to stabilise the animals affected by the oil spill.
McGuire said the first batch of wounded birds were sent to the centre on Sunday noon, including three pelicans, a ruddy duck and a surf scoter.
The oil spill also prompted the cancellation of the final day of the Great Pacific Airshow. The 5th annual air show began Friday morning at the Huntington Beach Pier and drew about 1.5 million visitors to the beach on Saturday. The event was scheduled to run through Sunday afternoon.
The last major oil spill hit the Southern California area was 30 years ago.
In 1990, the American Trader oil tanker spilled 417,000 gallons of crude, killing fish and approximately 3,400 birds and polluting popular beaches along the Orange County coast.
California has been taking a tough stand to protect its coast from the offshore oil and gas development since 1994 when the state legislature passed the California Coastal Sanctuary Act.
It prohibits the state from entering into any new leases within state tidelands.
In 2017, the California Senate passed a resolution opposing new oil or gas drilling in federal waters located offshore.