By Amy Taxin | Associated press
HUNTINGTON BEACH – A southern California beach that was closed more than a week ago due to a crude oil leak from an undersea pipeline reopened on Monday, far ahead of schedule.
Beaches in the city and state of Huntington Beach reopened after officials said water quality tests found no detectable levels of petroleum-associated toxins in ocean water . Early Monday morning surfers rocked in the waves and people walked along the shore, some with dogs jumping and playing in the water.
Andrew Boyack, a 54-year-old commercial photographer, was eager to get back to riding the waves he usually surfs three or four times a week.
“There are a lot of guys out there, so I think it’s probably okay, and I guess they tested it,” he said, while rinsing off in an outdoor shower on the beach.
“It’s exercise. It’s like, you know, if someone was a jogger or something, ”he said. “We surf every morning.
Huntington Beach and neighboring coastal communities were shaken by last week’s spill which officials said sent at least about 25,000 gallons and no more than 132,000 gallons of oil into the ocean.
It was caused by a leak about 5 miles off the coast in a pipeline owned by Houston-based Amplify Energy, which carries crude from offshore oil rigs to the coast.
The spill was confirmed on October 2, a day after residents reported smelling petroleum in the area. The case is under investigation and officials said they believed the pipeline was likely damaged by a ship’s anchor several months to a year before it ruptured. It is still unclear when the thin 13-inch (33-centimeter) crack in the pipeline started to leak oil.
On Sunday there was no smell of oil and the sand looked largely clear near the pier at Huntington Beach, where workers combed the sand for tar.
But local authorities are concerned about the environmental impact of the spill on wetlands, wildlife and the economy. With the ocean out of bounds in the community known as Surf City USA, relatively few people were at the beach and the shops that cater to them suffered.
Officials in the city of 200,000 people said water testing would continue for at least two more weeks.
Prior to Monday, residents were allowed to walk on the sand at Huntington Beach, but were denied access to the shore and water. The popular surfing and swimming spots at Newport Beach and Laguna Beach have also been closed.
In Huntington Beach, stores selling everything from star and stripe bikinis and boogie boards to sand toys and fishing gear took an economic hit when it closed. Marian Johnson, owner of “Let’s Go Fishing” on the pier, said sales were halved by the closure.
Mike Ali, owner of neighboring Zack’s store, said he was forced to close three of his four stores and cut workers’ hours. People were still renting bikes and buying food from his one store that remained open while the beach was closed, but he said business fell 90% without surf lessons, event catering and bonfires. joy on the beach.
“It could take a year to two years for tourism to return,” Ali said, adding that a 1990 oil spill had ended up diverting potential visitors to the beaches to the south and north of the city.
Rich Toro, 70, still made his regular 25-mile (40-kilometer) bike ride to Huntington Beach on Sunday.
But he said he would not be running back to the water because of the spill and worried about the impact on wildlife. Since the spill, authorities have reported 38 dead birds and nine dead fish, while 27 oiled birds have been recovered and are being processed.