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Offshore Pipeline No Longer Leaking Oil Into Ocean Off Southern California Coast; Cleanup Ongoing

The pipeline causing the major oil spill off the coast of Huntington Beach is no longer leaking into the Pacific ocean, the Associated Press reported Sunday afternoon. Cleanup efforts are ongoing, and officials say beaches could be shut down for several weeks, possibly months. The oil slick was spotted off the coast of Newport Beach, California on Saturday and was caused by a spill from an offshore rig. The spill has dumped about 126,000 gallons of oil into the water as of Sunday morning. The last day of the Pacific Airshow was canceled to allow marine access for cleanup efforts. The spill emanated from a facility operated by Beta Offshore about five miles offshore and was likely caused by a pipeline leak. By Sunday morning, the spill covered 5.8 nautical miles between the Huntington Beach Pier and Newport Beach.  Huntington Beach Mayor Kim Carr was joined by several public officials Saturday night to discuss the “major oil spill” that prompted beach closures and the cancellation of the last day of the Pacific Airshow. Carr said that the spill of 3,000 barrels’ worth of oil was reported about 9 a.m. Saturday and drew a response from all levels of government, and that a unified command was established to handle this environmental crisis. “The spill has significantly affected Huntington Beach, with substantial ecological impacts occurring at the beach and at the Huntington Beach Wetlands,” a city statement said. U.S. Rep. Michelle Steele of California’s 48th district sent a letter to President Joe Biden on Sunday, requesting a Major Disaster Declaration for Orange County, according to a statement from her office. Major Disaster Declarations allow states to take advantage of “a wide range of federal assistance programs for individuals and public infrastructure,” according to the website for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “It is imperative that the Federal Government assist in recovery efforts,” she wrote in that letter. “Constituents who live along the shoreline are already reporting oil on the beach and strong odors. Officials are already responding to protect sea life. Dead fish and birds are already being reported on beaches and shorelines.” The United States Coast Guard first responded to reports of an oil slick spotted three miles off the coast of Newport Beach on Saturday afternoon. The slick was approximately 13 miles in diameter at that point, the USCG said in its initial announcement on Twitter. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife was also monitoring the situation. Their Office of Spill Prevention and Response received reports of “oil in federal waters several miles offshore of Huntington Beach,” and was investigating the “source, volume & oil type,” according to another Twitter statement. Skimming equipment and booms were deployed to prevent the inflow of oil into the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve and Huntington Beach Wetlands. The California Department of Fish & Wildlife set up the Oiled Wildlife Care Network hotline, at 877-823-6926, for people to call if they see wildlife impacted from the oil. Members of the public were urged not to approach wildlife. Carr described the situation as a “potential ecologic disaster,” and said that some of the oil had reached the shore and was impacting the Talbert Marshlands and the Santa Ana River Trail. oil spill Sep 8 After Ida Oil Spill in Gulf of Mexico, Divers Put Containment Dome on Pipeline Markets Jun 2 It Could Be a Hot Summer Ahead for Oil Prices The city of Huntington Beach also closed ocean access from the Pier down to the Santa Ana River jetty. The second day of the Pacific Airshow was canceled while officials dealt with the spill. About 1.5 million people attended on Saturday, officials said. “The city fully acknowledges the gravity of the decision to cancel the final day of the iconic Pacific Airshow and the disappointment that this decision will cause,” Huntington Beach officials said in a statement. “However, the need for prompt and intensive intervention efforts requires complete and unfettered access to the marine environment.” Health officials warned people not to swim, surf or exercise by the beach because of the potential health hazards, and the public was asked to avoid any oiled areas. The City of Newport Beach also issued a Beach Advisory late Sunday morning, “advising residents and visitors to avoid contact with ocean water and oiled areas of the beach.” According to the city’s statement, “oil has been observed on shore in Newport Beach between 52nd street and the Santa Ana River.” Beaches remained open with the warning in place, and Newport Harbor was still open “for boating and general recreational use.” Trained spill response contractors were cleaning up the disaster. “Public volunteers are not needed and could hinder response efforts,” the unified command in charge of cleanup said. The Coast Guard was coordinating the response to the spill and investigating how it occurred. The most current information indicates the leak has not been completely stopped but preliminary patching was completed to repair the oil spill site and repair efforts were ongoing Sunday. Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley — who represents the impacted cities of Newport Beach, Huntington Beach and Seal Beach — said the spill has already killed some fish and birds. “Significant ecological impacts in HB. Oil has washed up now onto the HB beachfront. We’ve started to find dead birds & fish washing up on the shore,” Foley tweeted at 12:48 a.m. She added that the damage from the spill could be irreversible, calling the beaches and marshlands “part of our heritage” that draw countless numbers of people to the shore. This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.

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