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Massive oil spill hits Orange County beaches, killing birds, marine life, California


A massive oil slick originating from a pipeline leak hit the beaches of Orange County, California over the weekend, raising grave wildlife and environmental concerns.

Residents of Newport Beach started reporting the smell of gas Friday afternoon (LT), October 1, 2021, prompting the city's police department to issue a community advisory about 19:45 LT, saying they are checking it out.1

The alarm was raised 24 hours later, when Orange County officials said they are dealing with a massive oil spill, with potentially catastrophic consequences.

The leak is reportedly linked to a pipeline connected to a 41-year-old platform named Elly, located about 13.8 km (8.6 miles) off the coast.

According to the president and chief executive of Houston-based Amplify Energy Corp., parent company of the pipeline’s operator, the potential source of the oil leak is located about 7.2 km (4.5 miles) off the coast, somewhere along the 28.1 km (17.5 miles) long pipeline to shore.

As of October 3, the oil slick plume was ~10.7 km (6.6 miles) long, running from the Huntington Beach Pier down into Newport Beach, the City of Huntington Beach said in a news release. "At this time, due to the toxicity created by the spill, the City is asking that all individuals remain clear of the beach and avoid coming into contact with oiled areas."2

In partnership with the Orange County Health Care Agency, the City made the decision to close the ocean and shoreline in Huntington Beach between the Santa Ana River Jetty and Seapoint Street.3

At this time, it is unclear as to how long the ocean and shoreline closure will be in effect, or how long the oil spill clean-up efforts will take.

Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley, whose district includes Huntington Beach, said Saturday oil has already washed up on the Huntington Beach beachfront. "We’ve started to find dead birds and fish washing up on the shore."

On Monday, October 4, Folley said a wider area from the Huntington Beach Surf City all the way to Dana Point Harbor is impacted.4

"Fisheries in the impacted area are now closed to give time to investigate any impacts to fish in the impacted area. Avoid fishing off piers, bridges, boats and docks, too."

"While the overall clean-up efforts are being led by the Coast Guard, here in Huntington Beach, our local response efforts have been focused on two main priorities: protecting the health and safety of our residents and visitors; and preventing an ecological disaster by mitigating the oil spill impacts on our precious coastline and wetlands," city authorities said.

"We have confirmed that the company responsible for the oil spill is Beta Offshore, a California subsidiary of Houston-based Amplify Energy Corporation. The firm is also working on the clean-up effort, and in the coming days and weeks, we will be working to ensure that Amplify Energy Corporation does everything possible to rectify this environmental catastrophe."

Oil has also infiltrated Talbert Marsh, a 10 ha (25 acres) ecological reserve in Huntington Beach that is home to dozens of species of birds.5

The oil will likely continue to encroach on Orange County beaches in the next few days, officials said.


1 The smell of oil wafted in the air Friday. Why did it take another day to identify massive O.C. spill? – Los Angeles Times

2 City News – Day 3 of Pacific Airshow Canceled Due to Oil Spill – City of Huntington Beach

3 City News – Oil Spill Update – October 3, 2021 – City of Huntington Beach

4 Major oil spill hits Orange County coast, California – The Watchers

5 Massive oil spill sends crude onto Orange County beaches, killing birds, marine life – Los Angeles Times

Featured image credit: City of Huntington Beach

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