Major oil spill in California

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A pipeline breach five miles off Huntington Beach in Orange County has released some 3,000 barrels of oil into the Pacific. Described as one of the biggest spills in California’s recent history, the oil has covered popular beaches and wildlife reserves, sparking fears of a full-blown environmental crisis. State officials have cordoned off miles of the coast south of Huntington Beach in an attempt to contain the disaster.

Protective booms have also been deployed in the Pacific to stop the 13 square mile oil slick from further spreading.

An investigation is now underway to determine what caused the pipeline breach early on Saturday.

Kim Carr, the mayor of Huntington Beach, said the spill was an “environmental catastrophe” and a “potential ecological disaster”.

And Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley revealed on Sunday: “We’ve started to find dead birds and fish washing up on the shore.

“The oil has infiltrated the entirety of the [Talbert] Wetlands.

“There’s significant impacts to wildlife there.

“These are wetlands that we’ve been working with the Army Corps of Engineers, with the Land Trust, with all the community wildlife partners to make sure to create this beautiful, natural habitat for decades.

“And now in just a day, it’s completely destroyed.”

According to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), thousands of oil spills occur in US waters each year.

Most of these are small and occur when ships are being refuelled, for example, but bigger spills and their effects “can be felt for decades”.

It is estimated about 126,000 gallons (572,807 litres) of oil were released off the coast of California this weekend.

Oil spills are particularly devastating to the environment as they can kill wildlife and plants.

Toxic compounds found in the liquid fuel can be ingested by animals or coat their furs and feathers, putting them at risk of hypothermia.

Brad Avery, mayor of Newport Beach, even claimed to have seen dolphins swimming through the oil.

Ms Foley said: “The ramifications will extend further than the visible oil and odour that our residents are dealing with at the moment.

“The impact to the environment is irreversible.”

On Monday, she urged people to stay clear of a section of the coast from Huntington Beach down to Dana Point Harbor.

In an update posted on Twitter, she told fishers to avoid fishing off piers, bridges, boats and docks.

Fisheries in the impacted area have been closed off “to investigate any impacts” to marine wildlife.

Closures are also affecting Seapoint Drive south Santa Ana River.

Emergency services have, however, made some progress in cleaning up the oil.

In a Facebook update posted early on Monday (UK time), Ms Foley said 3,150 gallons of oily water have already been removed as of Sunday.

Nine boats have been dispatched to aid the effort alongside 3,700ft of boom.

Ms Foley said: “Beaches are closed starting at Seapoint Drive south in Huntington Beach to the Santa Ana River Jetty-Newport Beach.

“Newport Beach has a soft closure and requests that the public stays out of the water from Tower 44 north to the Santa Ana River.”

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