What We Know About the Devastating California Oil Spill

Audrey Zimmerman

Huntington Beach is known as “Surf City”, but now a ruinous oil spill has changed that. On Friday, Oct. 1, a massive oil spill devastated wildlife along the coast of Huntington Beach, California. The oil spill is one of the largest oil incidents in the United States, although the extent of the spill may not be known for weeks. This spill has not only impacted wildlife but also nearby residents.

What caused the spill?
The oil spill began about 5 miles off the coast between Huntington Beach and Long Beach. Beta Offshore, which is one of the largest oil producers in the state of California, has three offshore oil platforms known as their “Beta Field”. The platforms produce over 336,000 gallons of oil per day. The oil leaked from the company’s San Pedro Pipeline, which expands over 17 miles. Oil from the San Pedro Pipeline had been leaking for over 3 hours before it was shut down early Saturday morning. By the time this was discovered, it had been too late as birds and fish had been washed up along the shoreline, coated in oil. Although it is not confirmed, it is believed that “…a ship’s anchor striking the pipeline was ‘one of the distinct possibilities’ for the cause of the spill,” according to Martyn Willsher, the CEO of Amplify Energy Corp.

What is marine life facing?
An estimated 13 square miles of oil is still spreading due to currents, and has reached as far south as San Clemente. Many marine mammals and birds are at high risk of being severely damaged or facing death as the excessive amount of oil in their habitat can damage their internal organs. Birds that have been coated in oil are now being rehabilitated and stabilized at the Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center. Fisheries are now closed from Sunset Beach to San Clemente ordered by the California Department of Fish. California health experts have warned that the consumption of marine life during an immense oil spill could “threaten public health”.

What is California doing to solve this?
Governor Gavin Newsom has issued a state of emergency for California: “The state is moving to cut red tape and mobilize all available resources to protect public health and the environment,” Newsom says in a health statement. Now, California lawmakers are demanding a stop to oil drilling in the ocean.

“The majority of Californians oppose offshore drilling and with aging infrastructure, we’re likely to see more oil spills in the future if we don’t make a change now,” California representatives Ted Lieu and Julia Brownley said in a statement. “Oil spills are one of the greatest perpetual threats to our coastal communities.”

Agencies such as the Coast Guard are using booms, which are “floating barriers used to contain marine spills,” according to the Oil Spill Prevention and Response website. Trained professionals have also been cleaning up balls of oil washed up along shorelines to prevent any contact with humans and animals. Although experts are doing everything they can to prevent the oil spill from harming wildlife and humans, oil spills as large as this are “…actually impossible to clean up.” according to Miyoko Sakashita, director of the Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity’s Oceans Program.