Yesterday afternoon, people near Refugio State Beach near Goleta, about 25 miles northwest of Santa Barbara, California, began complaining of a foul smell coming from the water and the U.S. Coast Guard was sent to investigate. What they found was a growing oil spill and traced it back to a broken pipeline that was spilling oil into a storm drain.
21,000 Gallons of Crude Oil
What the Coast Guard initially found was an oil spill that had already traveled a half-mile. Santa Barbara County Fire Captain, Dave Zaniboni, said that they followed the oil spill to the broken pipeline that was pouring oil into a culvert that runs under U.S. highway 101 and then into a storm drain that leads to the ocean.
It took three hours to get the pipeline shut off. It is estimated that 21,000 gallons of crude oil have made its way into the ocean. When the pipeline was finally shut off, the oil spill had stretched out 50 yards into the ocean and four miles down the coastline.
Plains All American Pipeline owns the 24-inch pipe and has shut it down and the culvert that the oil was spilling into has been blocked off. A company statement said that they are deeply sorry about the event and are doing everything they can to limit the negative impact on the area environment.
Oil Spill Clean Up Underway
California state park, Santa Barbara county emergency officials and the U.S. Coast Guard are all working to clean up the oil spill. The non-profit group, Clean Seas, also had boats helping with the clean up, but was hampered by much of the oil being very close to shore. Jennifer Williams, a Coast Guard spokesperson stated that around 850 gallons of the oil had already been reclaimed and that they were doing their best to mitigate the effects of the oil spill in an environmentally friendly way.
This oil spill has occurred about 25 miles northwest of the expensive college community of Santa Barbara. The area harbors offshore oilrigs and seepage of tar still rolls ashore regularly in small amounts. This is the case along most of Southern California beaches. However, this is the largest oil spill in the area since about 1969 and environmental groups are stating concerns over the effects of the spill on the fragile environment of the area. The California coastline is an area of whale travel for migration of many species.
Refugio State Beach and others along the 4-mile area of the oil spill have been closed while clean up attempts continue. The Coast Guard planned to do a fly-over on Wednesday morning to get an idea of the spread of the oil slick and offer an estimate of how long it will take to remove. It is unknown whether the beaches will be able to open for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend holiday.