Dead birds and fish are washing up on a California beach after a major oil spill.
City officials announced early on Sunday that 126,000 gallons of oil had entered the water following a leak at an offshore oil production operation.
The exact cause of the leak and who owns the pipeline remains unclear. The affected area covers 5.8 nautical miles.
“While the leak has not been completely stopped, preliminary patching has been completed to repair the oil spill site,” Huntington Beach officials said.
“The City fully acknowledges the gravity of the decision to cancel the final day of the iconic Pacific Airshow, and the disappointment that this decision will cause,” the city said.
“However, the need for prompt and intensive intervention efforts requires complete and unfettered access to the marine environment.”
The oil spill led to the cancellation of the last day of the Pacific Airshow. As many as 1.5 million people were in Huntington Beach for the event on Saturday, ABC7 reported.
Huntington Beach Mayor Kim Carr said the oil spill – around 3,000 barrels worth – was reported around 9am on Saturday.
She said the spill was a “potential ecologic disaster” and that some oil had made it to the shoreline and was affecting the Talbert Marshlands and the Santa Ana River Trail.
City officials said that skimming equipment and booms were used to stop the oil from making it into the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve and Huntington Beach Wetlands.
Beach access was closed from the Huntington Beach Pier to the Santa Ana River jetty.
Health officials have told people to stay out of the water or avoid exercising near the beach. The spill had increased the risk of toxic fumes, a danger to human health but also marine species and other wildlife.
I spoke to Mayor Avery of @newportbeachgov tonight. He hit the oil slick in his boat today heading back from Catalina. He saw dolphins swimming thru the oil.
It sounds worse than the information slowly trickling in.
Repair, Accountability & clean up must happen immediately.
— Supervisor Katrina Foley (@SupervisorFoley) October 3, 2021
Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley, who represents Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, and Seal Beach, said the location of the leak is five miles from the shoreline and that the damage could be permanent.
She said that dead birds and fish were washing up on the beaches.
Conservation advocacy organisation Oceana said that the pollution “is just the latest tragedy of the oil industry” and another example of the need to move away from fossil fuels, which are driving the climate crisis.
“This is the legacy of the fossil fuel age, in which the oil and gas industry pushed their product until we were addicted. We need to break that addiction by shifting to clean energy. It’s time for the age of oil and gas to be history,’ said chief policy officer, Jacqueline Savitz, in a statement.
Huntington Beach officials said on Sunday that “the leak has not been completely stopped” and further repair attempts will be made.
The US Coast Guard is investigating the issue. The agency has classified the episode as a major oil spill, according to Huntington Beach Marine Safety Chief Eric McCoy.