Officials investigating one of California’s biggest oil spills were trying to determine whether the undersea pipeline that spewed 572,807 liters (126,000 gallons) of heavy crude into the Pacific Ocean had been damaged by a ship’s anchor.
The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are the two busiest container ports in the United States, according to their websites. Together, they see more than 100 cargo ships a day, and those ships pass through and anchor in the area where the pipeline runs.
“We’re looking into if it could have been an anchor from a ship, but that’s in the assessment phase right now,” said Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander Jeannie Shaye.
Meanwhile, residents of Huntington Beach, California, said authorities were slow to react to the large oil spill off the coast.
The spill, which has sullied the beaches and poses a threat to wildlife, is believed to come from a leak in an underwater pipeline.
Residents said that they noticed oil and the smell of petroleum Friday evening, but that there was no response until Saturday afternoon. They said it wasn’t until Saturday night that Amplify Energy Corp., the oil company that owns the pipeline, shut it down.
In a press release Monday, Amplify Energy said that it spotted the oil spill Saturday and immediately notified the U.S. Coast Guard and initiated its oil spill response. The company shut down the pipeline and sent a remotely operated vehicle to help find the source.
Garry Brown, president of the environmental group Orange County Coastkeeper and a Huntington Beach resident, said, “By the time (the oil) comes to the beach, it’s done tremendous damage. Our frustration is, it could have been averted if there was a quick response.”
More than 572,000 liters of crude have reportedly leaked, some of it washing up in coastal Orange County. Several beaches in the area are closed and could remain so for weeks or months, according to Huntington Beach Mayor Kim Carr.
In response to the spill, crews led by the U.S. Coast Guard have deployed skimmers and booms to try to contain the damage. Of particular concern is the Talbert Marsh, a 10-hectare wetland.
U.S. Representative Michelle Steel, a Republican representing the affected area, has asked President Joe Biden to declare the spill a disaster so that federal money can be allocated toward the cleanup.
“This is a really serious disaster,” she told CNN.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki responded to a reporter’s question Monday about the spill.
“We’re working collaboratively with state and local partners to address efforts to find the leak, contain the spill and assess impact, and address potential causes,” she said.
Amplify Energy operates the pipeline and three offshore oil platforms, all installed in the early 1980s. The 16-inch pipeline carries crude oil to a storage facility in Long Beach.
Beta Operating Company, the Amplify subsidiary that operates the field, has been cited 125 times for safety and environmental violations since 1980, according to a database from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, the federal agency that regulates the offshore oil and gas industry, The Associated Press reported.
Some information in this report comes from The Associated Press and Reuters.