The California coast suffered one of the largest oil spills in recent history this weekend. A leak in an underwater pipeline caused more than 120,000 gallons of oil to hit the beaches south of Los Angeles. The authorities are investigating the causes of the leak and have warned that those responsible will have to bear consequences. The “ecological disaster” has already killed fish and birds, and beaches will be closed for weeks or months. “The impact on the environment is irreversible,” warned Katrina Foley, supervisor of Orange County, one of the worst affected areas.
An estimated 126,000 gallons (476,300 liters) leaked into the sea Saturday and formed an oil slick covering 33.7 square km in the Pacific Ocean, from Huntington Beach Pier to Newport Beach, a few miles south of The Angels. The oil tanker spill constitutes one of the “most devastating situations our community has faced in decades,” Huntington Beach Acting Mayor Kim Carr said Sunday. In the evening, the US Coast Guard reported that crews had “ recovered ”from the water about 3,150 gallons of oil.
After hours of questions about the origin of the disaster, it was finally revealed early Sunday that the oil came from Platform Elly, a pipeline operated by Beta Offshore, a Californian subsidiary of Amplify Energy Corporation. “Although the leak has not been completely stopped, preliminary work to repair the damaged area has been completed,” local authorities reported.
Amplify Energy CEO Martyn Willsher said Sunday afternoon that the company is investigating the spill. The facilities that operate the pipeline were built in the early 1980s and are inspected every two years, Willsher noted, including during the pandemic.
Although the smell of oil and tar began to bother neighbors on Friday and the stain appeared on Saturday morning, the company that operates the pipeline did not close operations until that night. The next day, oil was still spilling about five miles from the coastal city of Huntington Beach. Carr warned that liters of oil will continue to hit the coasts of the area for “the next few days.”
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has warned that it is a “public health threat” to consume any fish and shellfish taken off the coast of Huntington Beach. At a press conference, the mayor warned Sunday that “wetlands are degrading” and there are parts of the coastline that “are covered in oil.” “We have started to find dead birds and fish on the shore,” added Supervisor Foley, representative of Orange. Environmental groups have taken advantage of the disaster to push for California to replace fossil fuels with renewable sources.
Subscribe here to the newsletter from EL PAÍS América and receive all the informative keys of the current situation of the region