California pipeline spill could endanger marine life for years, experts say


Updated October 5, 2021, 7:15 p.m. ET

Emergency officials are still trying to contain a large oil spill off the coast of Southern California that spilled more than 120,000 gallons of crude oil from an offshore pipeline into the Pacific Ocean, part of which ran aground on the shore.

“Diver reports and the images show that a 4,000-foot section of the 17.7-mile-long pipeline was moved with a maximum lateral movement of about 105 feet and had a 13-inch slot, parallel to the pipe, “according to a declaration officials.

Officials investigating the spill did not suggest the cause of the damage during their press briefing on Tuesday.

So far, 4,788 gallons of crude oil have been recovered and about 15.67 miles of light fuel oil have been reported along the coast, according to the US Coast Guard.

But even as response efforts continue, experts say long-term impacts on the environment – especially on birds and marine life – could be significant even if they weren’t saturated by the tide. weekend black.

“They may not look visibly oiled, but the exposure they subtly experience through their diet or subsequent physical contact can affect their physiology, health and result in successful training. inferior reproduction and therefore by a decrease in the chances of persistence of the population, ”he added. Andrea Bonisoli Alquati, professor of biological sciences at Cal Poly Pomona, told NPR.

Bonisoli Alquati studied the effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 on marine and terrestrial wildlife along the Gulf Coast and found that the repercussions are still present today.

“Some populations could recover quickly. Other populations take years and years,” he said. “Sometimes, of course, the attention of the press and the public has already shifted, but the consequences are still happening.”

Authorities say they are already finding dead fish and wildlife

The ecological effects are already being felt in Southern California.

Katrina Foley, Orange County Supervisor tweeted Sunday as authorities began to find dead birds and stranded fish on the shore. The Director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife closed fishing in coastal areas affected by the spill.

On Tuesday, the Oiled Wildlife Care Network reported that it had recovered eight live birds affected by the oil spill: a brown pelican, a red duck, a swamp grebe, a sanderling, three western grebes and an American coot.

But many more could be in danger. The Huntington Beach Wetlands Conservation says Talbert Marsh, who is in the area of ​​the oil spill, is home to around 90 different species of birds.

“A spill of this magnitude is a disaster every time it occurs, but this one has occurred in a particularly sensitive area at a critical time as many species of birds are heading south for it. winter “, Sarah Rose, Executive Director of Audubon California, said in a press release.

“This spill – virtually the same location as a devastating 1990 spill – is a reminder that oil and water are a dangerous mixture along California’s precious coast and that continued dependence on oil is killing birds and other wildlife,” threatens our public health and harms local people, savings and recreational opportunities, ”she added.

Spill adds to calls for a move away from fossil fuels

The oil spill has renewed calls from conservationists and others for the United States to stop using fossil fuels and instead switch to safer renewable energy sources.

“Even after fines and criminal charges, the oil industry continues to expand into California’s coastal waters,” Miyoko Sakashita of the Center for Biological Diversity said in a tweet. “The only solution is to shut down this dirty business.”

Martyn Willsher, president and CEO of Amplify Energy, said the oil rig his company operated that spilled crude over the weekend was built in the 1970s and 1980s and is being inspected regularly. He added that the company intends to participate in the recovery effort until it is completed.

The official cause is still under investigation

Officials say the oil spill was caused by damage to a pipeline from an offshore facility – but officials say the cause of the breach has yet to be determined.

The Coast Guard said the leak would be about four miles off Huntington Beach along a 17.5 mile pipeline. The pipeline, officials said, is 80 to 100 feet below the surface.

Observing the spill from the sea and from the air, a Coast Guard official said the spill is constantly changing and can be described as “ribbons of oil” and not “a big stain”.

“I would characterize it as isolated ribbons of petroleum, or plaques of petroleum,” Coast Guard Captain Rebecca Ore said at a press conference on Tuesday.

Overflights and shore-based responders continue to monitor ocean and shore for oil impact, officials noted.

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