Ribbons of oil from the massive spill off the coast of Huntington Beach are heading south toward beaches in San Diego County, prompting county officials to take preventative action to protect local habitats and resources.
“At this time, there is no immediate threat to San Diego County, but our team is prepared for the possibility that the oil is heading into our watersheds, onto our beaches and affecting fish, wildlife and fish. local ecosystems, ”the San Diego County office said. Emergency services (OES) said in a statement.
One of the largest oil spills in recent history sent tens of thousands of gallons of oil from a leaking undersea pipeline into the Pacific Ocean over the weekend. Since then, hundreds of crew members and volunteers have worked to contain the spill.
Approximately 4,875 gallons of crude oil have been recovered to date.
The Unified Command of the Oil Spill Response Team – made up of representatives from the United States Coast Guard, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the Oiled Wildlife are Network – said on Wednesday that the spill was moving south but they are not yet. sure how far the oil has spread south.
Volunteers have surveyed areas of North Bolsa Chica State Beach in San Onofre to search for any affected wildlife, the Unified Command said. The volunteers look for oil reflections or tar balls, which wash up on the shore.
The OES said its team was in contact with state and federal officials to determine the possible impact of the spill on San Diego County and that protective measures had already been put in place. A protective dam loops the mouth of the Santa Margarita River near Camp Pendleton north of Oceanside.
“The Unified Command maintains detailed contingency plans to deal with the evolving situation and agencies are working together to jointly implement these plans as needed,” OES said.
Nearby, the Carlsbad Desalination Plant, which provides about 50 million gallons of drinking water per day to residents of San Diego County, said it had not yet been affected by the oil spill, according to a joint statement from the San Diego County Water Authority and Poseidon Water, which operates the plant.
The facility monitors the concentration of oil in the water and will shut down if the hydrocarbon concentration in the source seawater reaches 300 parts per billion, the agencies said.
The factory was also working with local, state and federal agencies to determine whether preventive measures, such as installing a floating dam at the mouth of the Agua Hedionda Lagoon, were needed.
“This would protect the lagoon for marine life and ensure that the desalination plant can stay online, which minimizes the San Diego area’s demands on other water resources,” the joint statement said.
The OES has asked all residents of San Diego County who see evidence of oil to contact 1-877-823-6926.
The spill was probably due to a pipe leak of an offshore facility operated by Beta Offshore about five miles off the coast of Orange County, officials said. The Coast Guard said there appeared to be a 13-inch crack in the pipe – the likely source of the leak which could have been caused by a ship’s anchor, although this is still under investigation. investigation.
More than 350 crew members and more than a dozen boats, as well as air response teams, are participating in the recovery effort. Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in Orange County on Monday to help with the response.
The leak likely started late Friday or early Saturday, with oil appearing on the Huntington Beach shore on Saturday.
A dozen birds were recovered alive with oiled feathers and two were found dead, according to the Oiled Wildlife Care Network.
Oil is harmful to wildlife, but birds are of particular concern. The oil on their feathers prevents them from flying. They also cannot clean themselves and / or monitor their own temperatures. Whales, dolphins and other sea creatures can have difficulty breathing or die after swimming in oil or breathing toxic fumes.
The California Department of Fish & Wildlife has set up the Oiled Wildlife Care Network hotline at 877-823-6926, which people can call if they see wildlife affected by oil.