Oil slicks off Calif. span 9 miles as cleanup continues
Goleta, Calif. — An oil spill that fouled beaches and threatened wildlife along a scenic stretch of the California coast spread across 9 miles of ocean Wednesday as cleanup efforts began and federal regulators investigated how the pipeline leaked.
Workers in protective suits raked and shoveled stinky black goo off the beaches, while boats towed booms into place to corral the two slicks off the Santa Barbara coast where a much larger spill in 1969 — the largest in U.S. waters at the time — is credited with giving rise to the American environmental movement.
Up to 105,000 gallons spilled from an onshore pipe and a fifth of that — 21,000 gallons — reached the sea, according to estimates provided by officials.
Crude was flowing through the pipe at 84,000 gallons an hour when the leak was detected Tuesday. It took three hours to shut down, though company officials didn’t say how long it leaked before it was discovered or discuss the rate at which oil escaped.
Federal regulators from the Department of Transportation, which oversees oil pipeline safety, investigated the leak’s cause, the pipe’s condition and the potential regulatory violations.
The 24-inch pipe built in 1991 had no previous problems and was thoroughly inspected in 2012, according to Plains All American Pipeline LP, which owns the pipe. The pipe underwent similar tests about two weeks ago, though the results had not been analyzed yet.
“Plains is taking responsibility and paying for everything associated with this spill,” said Darren Palmer, a district manager with the company.
There was no estimate on the cost of the cleanup or how long it might take.
Environmental damage was anticipated, but dead fish and oily birds had not been found in the calm seas or rocky coast by late morning, said Capt. Mark Crossland of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.