Crews work to clean California beach fouled by oil pipeline spill
GOLETA, Calif. (Reuters) - Cleanup crews fanned out on Wednesday across an oil-fouled California beach near Santa Barbara to begin the painstaking process of scouring sand and rocks of petroleum spilled from a ruptured pipeline and to curb the sp...
GOLETA, Calif. (Reuters) - Cleanup crews fanned out on Wednesday across an oil-fouled California beach near Santa Barbara to begin the painstaking process of scouring sand and rocks of petroleum spilled from a ruptured pipeline and to curb the spread of contamination.
The 24-inch-wide pipeline that runs parallel to coastal highway inexplicably ruptured on Tuesday, spewing crude oil down a canyon, under a culvert and out onto a pristine 4-mile stretch of Refugio State Beach and into the water, U.S. Coast Guard officials said.
By Wednesday, the spill also left an oil slick that stretched more than 9 miles in length offshore, the Coast Guard said.
Initial estimates from the pipeline company, Plains All American Pipeline, put the amount of oil spilled at 21,000 gallons (79,000 liters), or about 667 barrels of crude.
That figure pales in comparison with estimated 80,000 to 100,000 barrels of crude oil that gushed into the Santa Barbara channel from an offshore oil-well blowout in 1969 and still ranks as the largest oil spill ever in California waters.
Still, Janet Wolf, who chairs the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors, called the latest spill "a disaster" and "a worst-nightmare scenario."
Wildlife teams were dispatched to the scene to rescue any sea birds, marine mammals and other animals injured by the spill, but authorities said the extent of damage to wildlife was not immediately known.
Crews were focusing on three especially sensitive sites known as nesting areas for shore birds, including snowy plovers and least terns, said Alexia Retallack, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Refugio State Beach and adjacent campgrounds were to remain closed to the public through the Memorial Day holiday weekend, officials said. The area also was closed to fishing and shellfish harvesting.
At daybreak, about 130 cleanup workers contracted by Plains were on beach scooping up globs of oil from the sand, raking up tar balls and disposing of the material in plastic bags.
Crews also will scrub soiled rocks, hose down contaminated areas and skim up oil left behind, Coast Guard Captain Jennifer Williams told a news conference on Wednesday in nearby Goleta.
Meanwhile, nine cleanup vessels plied the ocean, six of them corralling the slick with booms and three others skimming up oil from the surface. By about 8:30 a.m., crews had managed to recover about 120 barrels of spilled crude, most of that from the beach, officials said.