California Oil Spill A Major ‘Environmental Catastrophe’ - Stab Mag
The Huntington Beach Pier can be seen in the distance as oil from a 126,000-gallon spill from an offshore rig washes up on Huntington State Beach in Huntington Beach on Sunday, October 3, 2021. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

California Oil Spill A Major ‘Environmental Catastrophe’

126,000 gallons of crude oil has spilled into the Pacific off the coast of Orange County, creating a 13-square-mile slick.

Words by Ethan Davis

A pipeline failure off the coast of Orange County, Calif., on Saturday caused at least 144,000 gallons of oil to spill into the Pacific Ocean, creating a 13-square-mile slick that continued to grow on Sunday, officials said.

The slick extended from Huntington Beach to Newport Beach. Birds and fish have been washed ashore, dead. Dolphins have been spotted swimming through the slick. The spill now threatens the delicate wetlands such as the Talbert Marsh that helps store California’s surface water, control pollution and flooding, and serves as a critical nursery area for a number of plant and animal species.

Kim Carr, the mayor of Huntington Beach which bears the brunt of the spill, said at a press conference on Saturday morning, “Our wetlands are being degraded and portions of our coastline are now covered in oil.” She said the oil rig was operated by Beta Offshore, a California subsidiary of Houston-based Amplify Energy Corporation. “It is one of the most devastating situations our community has dealt with in decades.”

Oil from an oil spill from an offshore rig floats in the water near the inlet to Talbert Marsh Wetlands in Huntington Beach on Sunday, October 3, 2021. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

According to the NY Times:

It was not immediately clear what caused the leak, which officials said occurred three miles off the coast of Newport Beach and involved a failure in a 17.5-mile pipeline connected to an offshore oil platform called Elly that is operated by Beta Offshore.

The U.S. Coast Guard said in a statement Sunday night that crews had “recovered” about 3,150 gallons of oil. Fourteen boats were involved in the cleanup effort on Sunday, and crews had deployed 5,360 feet of boom, a floating barrier that helps contain oil.

Miyoko Sakashita, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s oceans program, said: “The coastal areas off of Southern California are just really rich for wildlife, it is a key biodiversity hot spot.”

Birds that get oil on their feathers can’t fly, can’t clean themselves and can’t monitor their own temperatures. Whales, dolphins and other sea creatures can have trouble breathing or die after swimming through oil or breathing in toxic fumes, she said. Orange County health authorities have urged people who touched the oil or inhaled its vapors to seek medical attention given its toxicity in high doses. 

The spill was not the first of its kind to imperil California’s coastline. In 2015, the Refugio spill near Santa Barbara, the worst in decades for the state, sent more than 100,000 gallons of crude oil spilling mostly into the ocean after an onshore pipeline ruptured. A $22 million settlement was finalized in October 2020 to restore natural resources damaged by the spill.

Beaches in Huntington have been closed until further notice.

Here’s how you can help, below.

-Donate to the Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center (
-Donate some supplies listed in the second picture of this post
-Donate to the International Bird Rescue(
-If you encounter any injured wildlife affected by the oil spill, call the Oiled Wildlife Care Network Hotline @ 877-823-6926
-Text OILSPILL to 51555 for updates to take action and volunteer (via @surfrider )

-Only certified and trained volunteers will be able to help directly with the handling of the wildlife
-Do not attempt to capture and transport wildlife affected, there are response teams deployed already 
-For your own health and safety, and in an effort to keep the areas clear for trained workers, please stay away from the affected beaches 


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