At least 126,000 gallons of crude oil have gushed from a pipeline just five miles off the Southern California coast Sunday, wreaking still-unknown devastation on local wetlands and fouling Huntington Beach. “It’s terrible,” Jon Ely, a 58-year-old Huntington Beach resident, told the LA Times. “This stuff is not going to come up. It’s goo, and it’s thick.” The pipeline, owned by Houston-based oil and gas company Amplify Energy, has “probably been leaking longer than we know,” Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley told CNN Sunday. Dead fish and birds are already washing up on shore.
The toxic slick caused by the pipeline rupture spanned 8,320 acres, officials said, and while the leak appears to have stopped, crews have been unable to actually fix the pipeline. It also “infiltrated” the Talbert Marsh wetland, threatening numerous bird species. Cal State coastal ecotoxicologist told the Washington Post seabirds, marine mammals, and crustaceans living near the shore are most at risk.
Birds will try to clean their oily feathers with their beak, as if the oil is “a piece of dirt. Then they ingest the oil and if it’s a little, it might be okay, but it’s usually a pretty toxic exposure, and they die.” Biologist and consultant for the county Ben Smith told the LA Times, “There’s tar everywhere. You think by now we would have figured out how to keep this kind of thing from happening, but I guess not.” (Washington Post $, CNN, LA Times $, NBC, CBS, ABC, The Guardian, New York Times $, The Hill, Washington Post $)