Major Oil Spill Off Orange County Triggers Ecological and Recreational Disaster
The Surfrider Foundation is deeply dismayed to report that on Saturday, October 2nd, an estimated 126,000 gallons of oil spilled when a pipeline broke approximately 4 miles off the coast near an offshore drilling platform. The spill resulted in a 13-mile wide oil slick off Orange County, California, roughly the same size as the spill that hit Refugio State Beach in Santa Barbara in 2015. This accident is yet another stark reminder of how dangerous and dirty offshore oil and gas drilling can be.
The oil spill is causing devastating impacts to birds, fish and other wildlife and has reached the coast in Huntington Beach and Newport Beach. To protect the public, city officials announced on Sunday morning the closure of beachfront areas from the Huntington Beach Pier down to Newport Beach. Surfrider is in close contact with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and other agencies leading the incident command. At this stage, the best thing to do is to support the agencies that are trying to minimize the damage to coastal ecosystems including beaches and wetlands.
“Sadly, once the oil is spilled it is too late. As we are again learning in Southern California, once the disaster has occurred we can only try to minimize the damage,” said Dr. Chad Nelsen, CEO of the Surfrider Foundation. “That is why the Surfrider Foundation has consistently opposed new offshore oil drilling and we ask you to join us in that opposition. We need a strong public response to combat special interests that are constantly pressing for more drilling along our precious coastlines.”
The public is discouraged from actively participating in the clean up or trying to save oiled wildlife because the oil is highly toxic and you can cause more harm than good. It is imperative that only those with the proper training are involved with the cleanup. Members of the public should not go near the spill, as oil contains dangerous chemicals. The public can help by reporting oil or wildlife sightings (see contacts below) and taking photos to document the disaster.
The coastline and marine environment of Orange County are ecological treasures and will be significantly impacted by this event, as will the economy and recreational use of the area. The spill illustrates why offshore drilling is a dirty and damaging industry, and why Surfrider Foundation is urging Congress to permanently prohibit new offshore drilling in the Pacific, Atlantic and Eastern Gulf of Mexico, which is a possibility in the near future.
The true ecological damage of the spill will not be realized for years. But what we do know now is that the Southern California coastal environment contains some of the most ecologically sensitive habitats along the West Coast. In fact, marine protected areas were established within the region to protect these sensitive resources indefinitely (except during an oil spill).
A number of government agencies, including the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response, are working on the cleanup operation. Surfrider will continue to monitor the cleanup efforts and is pushing to ensure dangerous dispersants will not be used that can compound the problem. Based on evidence from the Deep Water Horizon spill, these dispersants can exacerbate ecological damage to wildlife and the nearshore environment.
Surfrider will also work to ensure that the company responsible is following important laws in place, including the Oil Spill Prevention and Response Act, which requires companies to mitigate ecological harm after a spill. The law also requires the oil companies to prevent future spills by investing money into ‘research and development’ for spill prevention.
Resources and Ways to Help.
- Review Surfrider’s “Oil Spill Toolkit” that provides information about oil spill responses. Please note, response workers are not seeking volunteers and it is important that citizens do not attempt to clean up the oil. Visiting the area is strongly discouraged as oil contains numerous hazardous chemicals.
- If you’re interested in volunteering for upcoming clean up opportunities, please text ‘oilspill’ (one word) to 51555 or complete this form. You will be added to a list of interested volunteers and will receive updates on ways to get involved.
- If you find oiled or sick wildlife call the Oiled Wildlife Care Network at (877) 823-6962. People are being asked not to approach potentially affected wildlife, as you can cause more harm than good to the animals.
- You can join Surfrider in asking Congress to permanently ban new offshore drilling to stop future spill disasters. Take Action.
Please continue to visit www.Surfrider.org for developing news.