Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in California Wednesday night in an effort to clean up an oil pipeline spill that may have been as large as 2,500 barrels or about 105,000 gallons of crude oil. Teams worked Thursday for the third straight day to rid of the oil stain that may rank as the largest spill to hit Santa Barbara in more than 40 years.
Gov. Brown said that the emergency “proclamation cuts red tape and helps the state quickly mobilize all available resources.” He added that the government will do everything they can to “protect California’s coastline.”
Coast Guard Captain Jennifer Williams said that about 300 people are working non-stop to rake tar balls scoop up globs of oil, wash contaminated areas and scrub rocks. Additionally, several cleanup vessels were shipped out to take care of the ocean.
A 24-inch pipeline is responsible for Tuesday’s massive spill near Refugio State Beach, a protected state park nearly 130 miles northwest of Los Angeles. As of now, the Plains All-American Pipeline estimates about 105,000 gallons spilled based on the elevation of the pipeline and the flow rate of oil, according to CNN News. However, the company’s director of pipeline operations Rick McMichael said that it will take a few days to determine the amount since the pipeline is underground.
He told the press that 21,000 gallons of crude oil had spilled into the Pacific. The spill took place on its 1987 Las Flores-to-Gaviota pipeline, and the company said the oil reached a culvert before spilling into the ocean from there.
Plains All-American Pipeline detected pressure issues Tuesday morning and it was turned off in approximately 30 minutes.Unfortunately, it wasn’t shut off in time.
The company’s chairman Gregory Armstrong apologized for the spill and for “the damage that has been done to the wildlife and to the environment.” He added that he was deeply sorry for the inconvenience it has caused the “citizens and visitors” of the area.
The boundaries of the spill lie near a state-designated underwater preserve that hosts 60 species of sea birds and 25 marine mammal species, according to Reuters. Wildlife teams worked to rescue any animals in the area. The extent of the damage to the animals has not yet been determined, but photos depicted sea life covered in oil. Fishing has been banned in the area until further notice.
There’s also concern about a nearby beach called El Capitan. Thousands of people are expected to travel there on Memorial Day weekend, one of the biggest weekends of the year for these state parks. It is located on an unspoiled stretch of coast.