Crude oil contains a volatile mixture of carcinogenic ingredients that can vaporize into the air and be carried for miles, according to UC Irvine professor Donald Blake.
“It would have made more sense to at least report it publicly and then let people decide if they wanted to go to the beach, and possibly be exposed at the air show,” Blake told USA Today.
By Saturday night, winds shifted, bringing the 125,000 gallons of oil on a collision course with the coast.
By Sunday, city officials closed the beachfront from Huntington Beach Pier down to Newport Beach and Dana Point to begin cleanup on the 5.8-mile oil plume—about 13 square miles in size.
Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley writes on Twitter that dead birds and fish continue to wash ashore. The pipeline leak, connected to an offshore oil platform know as Elly, reportedly seeped into Talbert Marsh in Huntington Beach, home to about 90 species of birds, according to the Huntington Beach Wetlands Conservancy.
On Monday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency due to the spill.
According to documents obtained by CNN, California authorities were notified late Friday of reports of a large-scale oil sheen at the site of the pipeline spill, but it took Amplify Energy Corp., the operator of the line, more than 12 hours to report it to state and federal officials.
Amplify CEO Martyn Willsher said in a news conference Monday that the oil was not detected until Saturday morning.
“We’re looking into if it could have been an anchor from a ship, but that’s in the assessment phase right now,” Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Jeannie Shaye told ABC News Monday.
“This has devastated our California coastline in Orange County, and it’s having a tremendous impact on our ecological preserves as well as our economics,” Foley told CNN. “We need answers and the public deserves answers.”
This is just the latest example of that, and it’s past the time for major environmental changes.
“As California continues to lead the nation in phasing out fossil fuels and combating the climate crisis, this incident serves as a reminder of the enormous cost fossil fuels have on our communities,” Newsom said Monday. “Destructive offshore drilling practices sacrifice our public health, the economy, and our environment.”
Huntington Beach Mayor Kim Carr called the spill an “environmental catastrophe” and “potential ecological disaster,” Reuters reports.
“It’s going to be some time before those beaches are opened up. Even after they clean up the oil, they still have to test the water and make sure if it’s safe for people to get into the ocean and to enjoy the beaches,” former FEMA presidential appointee Mark Neveau told KCRA-3 in Sacramento.
“That’s the recreational part of it. Now the economic part of, we talked about just earlier, too, is the air show which brings in millions of dollars to that area, had to be canceled. So there’s economic as well as environmental and recreational damage, not to mention the cost to clean up,” Neveau added.