California Oil Spill Causes Dead Birds and Fish to Wash Ashore

by Jennifer Shea

A 13-square-miles-wide oil spill containing more than 130,000 gallons of crude oil is wreaking ecological havoc on the Southern California coastline.  

The oil slick has forced the closure of Huntington Beach and has spread south to Newport Beach, CBS Los Angeles reports. The U.S. Coast Guard has declared it a major spill. Officials have yet to name the company to blame for the spill.

Early Sunday morning, Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley notified the public that oil continues to pour from the pipeline breach linked to the oil rig Elly. The leak location is reportedly 5 miles off the coast of Huntington Beach.

California Oil Spill Harms Birds, Fish

Orange County residents said the smell of oil reached them late Friday, according to the Los Angeles Times. By Saturday, officials had to adjust their projections that the spill would not reach the coast.

Now locals have begun to find dead birds and fish washing ashore in the wake of the oil spill. For animals that survive, there is an Oiled Wildlife Care Network hotline: (877) 823-6926.

The mayor of Newport Beach ran into the oil slick in his boat while making his way back home from Catalina. He saw dolphins swimming through the oil, Foley recounted in a series of tweets.

Pacific Airshow Canceled Due to Oil Spill

By Sunday morning, the leak had been patched. But it was still leaking some oil.

Meanwhile, the city of Huntington Beach, California decided to cancel Day 3 of the Pacific Airshow. Officials cited “substantial ecological impacts” from the oil spill.

The announcement noted that the Coast Guard is overseeing the response to the oil spill and is leading the investigation into its cause.

The offshore platform system in question includes both Elly and another connected rig, Ellen. It has been implicated in previous spills. There was, for example, a 2,000-gallon spill in 2000, for which the government slapped the operator with a $48,000 fine.

Still, the crude oil processing continued. California environmentalists have sounded warnings about the ecological perils of building fossil fuel platforms in sensitive wetlands and marine habitat.

The reservoir of oil where Elly is located is called the Beta Field. The U.S. Department of the Interior regulates it.