HUNTINGTON BEACH, California — A ship’s anchor may be the culprit of a massive oil spill coating 13 miles of azure seas and threatening the city’s ecological preserve with endangered species.
The spill occurred Saturday when an offshore pipe ruptured during a three-day international airshow with 1.5 million people in attendance. It spewed up to 144,000 gallons of oil into the ocean, said Huntington Beach spokeswoman Jennifer Carey.
Specialized boats with boons to contain the slick were dispatched Saturday night, and the airshow, the biggest in the United States, was canceled for its final day on Sunday.
“This is catastrophic, the amount of oil that we currently have off the Orange County coastline,” she said. “Fortunately, we were proactive in getting booms and other mitigation measures in place, but we still expect a significant environmental impact.”
While the burst pipe was identified and shut down, the exact location of the hole and the total amount of oil that escaped is unknown, Carey said. Divers will go to the ocean floor to search for the breach. Many boats were in the area during the airshow and the cargo ships also regularly traverse the coast.
Huntington Beach coastline City of Hutington Beach
“We’re looking into if it could have been an anchor from a ship, but that’s in the assessment phase right now,” said U.S. Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander Jeannie Shaye.
The Coast Guard is leading the investigation, partnering with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and Amplify Energy, which owns the drilling platform located about 5 miles off the coast of Huntington Beach.
“Huntington Beach takes pride in coastal resources and wildlife,” Carey said. “It’s devastating to our community to see the impacts due to this oil spill. Fish and birds have already been washing ashore since the spill occurred — both dead and alive.”
Orange County is home to several wildlife rescue organizations that will rescue animals caught in the spill. The groups have experience cleaning oil off the bodies of fish, birds, and mammals from a history of spills along the West Coast.
A marsh that runs for miles along Huntington Beach’s multi-milliondollar waterfront has been dedicated as a preserve to encourage the breeding of many rare animals such as turtles, sharks, sponges, and birds. The species were once plentiful in the area.
Huntington Beach has rich oil deposits, and during the first half of the last century, oil derricks covered much of the city’s shoreline. A refinery still exists, as well as numerous offshore drilling platforms.
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Original Author: Tori Richards
Original Location: Ship anchor could be cause of massive Orange County oil spill