The Slatest

Dead Birds and Fish Are Washing Up on California Coast After Major Oil Spill

A person takes photos near oil washed up on Huntington State Beach after a 126,000-gallon oil spill from an offshore oil platform on October 3, 2021 in Huntington Beach, California.
A person takes photos near oil washed up on Huntington State Beach after a 126,000-gallon oil spill from an offshore oil platform on October 3, 2021 in Huntington Beach, California. Mario Tama/Getty Images

A major spill has covered a large part of the Southern California coastline with oil and dead birds and fish are washing up into Orange County beaches. At least 126,000 gallons of oil spilled into the water from a broken pipeline that connects to an offshore oil platform and is less than three miles from the Huntington Beach coast. The offshore oil platform is known as Elly and is operated by Beta Operating Company. “The spill has significantly affected Huntington Beach, with substantial ecological impacts occurring at the beach and at the Huntington Beach Wetlands,” reads a statement from the city of Huntington Beach. Officials closed sections of the beach as oil washed ashore on Sunday and also canceled the final day of the annual Pacific Air Show.

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As the smell of petroleum overpowered the area on Sunday morning, crews rushed out to try to mitigate damage caused by what was one of the most significant oil spills in recent Southern California history. “We’ve been working with our federal, state and county partners to mitigate the impact that could be a potential ecological disaster,” Huntington Beach Mayor Kim Carr said.

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Newport Beach Mayor Brad Avery came across the spill on his boat Saturday morning and said others had already reported the slick. “As we got within about five miles of the coastline all of the sudden we were going through this major oil slick,” he said. “We had a pod of dolphins on our bow as we were going through it. Of course we couldn’t signal to them to change direction, but they seemed to make it through OK.” Local lawmakers are calling on President Joe Biden to issue a major disaster declaration for Orange County so more federal funds can flow in to assist in the cleanup effort.

Residents in the area first noticed something was wrong Friday night, when neighbors reported a strong, tar-like smell in the air. The oil slick was first reported on Saturday and workers immediately shut down the pipeline and started working on efforts to collect as much of the oil as possible. But as of Sunday morning, the city of Huntington Beach said the leak had not been completely stopped. “Wildlife is dying. It’s very sad,” Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley said. How much the wildlife has been affected by the spill remains unclear.

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