Major oil spill closes California’s Huntington Beach

(File photo) – dehooks/iStock

(HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif.) — A major oil spill off the coast of Southern California has forced Huntington Beach and activities scheduled to take place in the region to shut down.

A leak from an offshore oil production facility leaked 3,000 barrels of oil, which is about 126,000 gallons, on Saturday, Huntington Beach Mayor Kim Carr said. The leak is expected to have occurred about 4.5 miles offshore, officials said.

The U.S. Coast Guard was notified of the spill around 9 a.m. Saturday, Carr said. By early Sunday morning, the oil had reached the shore. It had entered the Talbert Marshlands and the Santa Ana River Trail, fanning out over an area of about 5.8 nautical miles, the city of Huntington Beach announced in a press release Sunday morning.

The size of the spill “demanded prompt and aggressive action,” officials said, but the pipeline has been capped and is no longer leaking into the ocean.

Skimming equipment and booms have been deployed to prevent the oil from flowing into the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve and Huntington Beach Wetlands, according to the city.

On Sunday night, Laguna Beach closed all its beaches, asking that “all individuals remain clear of the beach and pay close attention to any beach closure or warning signs,” according to a statement released by the city.

“Some bad news for my Laguna Beach constituents (and everyone else). I just learned projections have the #HuntingtonBeachOilSpill reaching Crystal Cove around 10pm tonight. We need more resources deployed ASAP. And then we need to end all offshore oil drilling off the CA coast,” California Sen. Dave Min tweeted.

The Coast Guard has recovered 3,150 gallons of oil from the water as of Sunday night, and 5,360 feet of boom have been deployed, they said in a statement.

The shoreside response was conducted by 105 government agency personnel. Fourteen boats conducted oil recovery operations while three Coast Guard boats enforced a safety zone off 1,000 yards around the oil spill boats. Also, four aircrafts were dispatched for overflight assessments.

It is not yet clear what caused the spill.

The final day of the Pacific Airshow was canceled in order to facilitate cleanup operations, city officials announced Sunday morning. In addition, residents were advised not to swim, surf or exercise near the beach due to the potential health hazards, such as toxic fumes.

The oil spill is already affecting wildlife, with dead birds and fish already washing up on the beaches, Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley tweeted.

Newport Beach Mayor Brad Avery reported to Foley that he saw dolphins swimming through the slick oil plumes as he headed back to shore from Catalina, Foley tweeted.

Foley told ABC News she believes the spill is “irreversible.”

“You can’t get wildlife back that are killed in this process, and some of the habitat the plant species, they’re going to be impacted for years to come,” she said.

She added that the damage to the environment isn’t the only thing she fears as she has received reports of surfers getting sick.

“It feels like you have a thick coating in your mouth, if you’re out there too long. It’s definitely the vapors in the air, and they’re impacting the environment,” she said.

Marine animals will be taken to the Pacific Marine Mammal Center, where they will be triaged and later sent to Sea World San Diego for rehabilitation, animal rescuers told ABC News.

The Pacific Marine Mammal Center is currently in a “holding pattern” as it awaits the arrival of oiled animals in the next hours, days and weeks, Krysta Higuchi, communications representative for the organization, told ABC News.

The center is “preparing for the worst, hoping for the best,” Higuchi said.

Ocean conservation nonprofit Oceana urged policymakers to begin a widespread shift to clean energy and to end offshore drilling to prevent future spills.

“This is just the latest tragedy of the oil industry,” Jacqueline Savitz, chief policy officer for, told ABC News. “The reality of our reliance on oil and gas is on full display here.”

Saturday’s spill is just the latest in American waters this past month. After Hurricane Ida tore through the Gulf Coast in early September, it left a trail of oil in its wake, with nearly 350 oil spills reported to the Coast Guard in the days after the storm made landfall.

An analysis by the organization also found that ending new leasing for offshore oil and gas in the U.S. could prevent over 19 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions as well as more than $720 billion in damages to people, property and the environment in the country.

The risk of oil spills may rise a climate change creates stronger offshore disturbances, experts told ABC News.

The California Department of Wildlife has set up a hotline to report wildlife impacted by the oil. Individuals are advised not to handle the wildlife but to report incidents to 877-823-6926.

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