A day after an oil sheen was discovered off Huntington Beach, authorities believed they identified and contained the source: a leak from the damaged area of a pipeline that broke in October, spilling an estimated 25,000 gallons of oil into the Pacific.
At around 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, divers hired by a unitary commando set up in response to the October 2 leak were preparing a routine inspection of the damaged pipeline when they discovered the sheen of oil on the water, Eric said Laughlin, a spokesman for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The gloss covered an area approximately 30 feet by 70 feet. Underwater, divers noticed tiny oil droplets near the damaged section of the pipeline that has been wrapped in a material called syntho-glass since it leaked, Laughlin said. The divers removed the cloth and replaced it with a new one, he said on Sunday.
The pipeline has been shut down and no oil has flowed through it since the October 2 leak, Laughlin said. The oil discovered underwater on Saturday was “probably a residue,” he said.
It appears the new case prevented additional leaks, Laughlin said. U.S. Coast Guard and fish and wildlife officials flew a helicopter over the grounds just before sunset on Saturday and again on Sunday morning and saw no sheen on the water, which led them to believe the sheen was wearing off on its own, Laughlin said. Divers did not notice any extra droplets of oil underwater, he added.
Fish and wildlife officials have received no reports of wildlife being affected by the shine, Laughlin said. The Agency and others who make up the unitary command – the US Coast Guard; Amplify Energy, the company that operated the pipeline; and representatives of various local governments – plan to continue monitoring the area for new oil sightings.
“The reaction has never stopped since October 2,” said Laughlin.
U.S. Coast Guard spokesman Petty Officer Hunter Schnabel said only that the Coast Guard was investigating reports of an oil sheen off Huntington Beach.
Orange County’s supervisor Katrina Foley said Saturday that repeated problems with oil spills in the waters off Huntington Beach are damaging the city’s reputation as a tourist destination.
“We just can’t have them any more [types]of incidents or horrors off our coast, “said Foley, calling for an end to the offshore drilling.
Federal agencies investigating the October 2 leak are hypothesizing that a cargo ship may have pulled an anchor across the pipeline that eventually led to the rupture. Last week, Long Beach Coast Guard officials boarded a ship and labeled its owners “stakeholders” in investigating the leak. Braden Rostad, the Coast Guard investigative chief for Los Angeles and Long Beach, said the Beijing container ship was involved in an anchor incident in January.
The Beijing is the second ship to be investigated by the authorities investigating the oil spill. Authorities previously said another cargo ship, the MSC Danit, was involved in an anchor towing incident that may have damaged the pipeline that ran from an oil rig to the port of Long Beach.
The Times staff, Joe Mozingo and Richard Winton, contributed to this report.