Southern California oil spill leaks at least 126,000 gallons into ocean

An offshore rig has leaked 126,000 gallons of oil in the Pacific Ocean so far, leading to what one Southern California mayor called a “potential ecological disaster.” Authorities said Sunday that a “very large sheen” was approaching Orange County beaches, which have been closed. 

“Our wetlands are being degraded and portions of our coastline are now covered in oil,” said Huntington Beach Mayor Kim Carr on Sunday. 

The cause of the spill remained undetermined on Sunday afternoon.   

The oil slick was impacting almost 6 miles of the coast from the Huntington Beach pier to the Balboa pier, and has resulted in the closure of the beaches from the Santa Ana River jetty to the Huntington Beach Pier, CBS Los Angeles reports.

Major Oil Spill Fouls Southern California Beaches
A person stands near oil washed up on Huntington State Beach after a 126,000-gallon oil spill from an offshore oil platform on October 3, 2021 in Huntington Beach, California. The spill forced the closure of the popular Great Pacific Airshow with authorities urging people to avoid beaches in the vicinity. Mario Tama / Getty Images

The spill, about four and a half miles off the coasts of Huntington Beach and Newport Beach, was first detected Saturday morning. U.S. Coast Guard Captain Rebecca Ore said Sunday that officials are monitoring the sheen that developed, and that they “expect that some of this oil, unfortunately, is going to land on our beaches in the Huntington and Newport areas, and that is a very dynamic situation.” 

The Coast Guard deployed skimming equipment and booms to try to slow the spread. 

Authorities on Sunday warned residents not to try to clean up the oil or to touch it or any of the animals that may have been affected. Eric Laughlin of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said that so far, one duck is being treated, but authorities warned that it could take days to see the impact to animals in the area. The area is home to about 90 species of birds, some endangered. Carr said residents have reported seeing oil-covered fish and birds washing up along the coastline. 

Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley told CBS Los Angeles that as of Sunday, she has been told by Huntington Beach that the wildlife in the Talbert wetlands has been “dramatically impacted.”

“Wildlife is dying. It’s very sad. We do have reports of dead animals along the shore, washing up upon the shore at the Huntington Beach area as well as wildlife within the marsh and wetlands is dying,” Foley said.

The third day of the Pacific Airshow was canceled as a result of the spill on Sunday. Authorities said they didn’t believe there was an impact on Saturday to the air show.