Santa Barbara Oil Spill: Ruptured Pipeline Spills Oil on California Coastline; Cleanup Underway at Refugio State Beach

( [email protected] ) May 20, 2015 10:24 AM EDT
Santa Barbara Oil Spill
Officials walk along an the oil-covered beach on May 19, 2015 north of Goleta, California. About 21,000 gallons spilled from an abandoned pipeline on the land near Refugio State Beach, spreading over about four miles of beach within hours. Photo: David Mcnew/Getty Images

A ruptured pipeline has been blamed for the oil spill along a Santa Barbara County beach in California, contaminating the local area. Authorities have estimated that about 21,000 gallons of crude oil have been spilled so far along Refugio State Beach.

According to Oscar Flores of KEYT, the oil spill occurred along the Refugio Sate Beach coastline on Tuesday morning. The U.S. Coast Guard has indicated that the oil slick is 4 miles wide and that the broken pipeline belonged to Texas-based "Plains All-American Pipeline."

"Any oil spill is devastating to the environment, but it's nothing that we can't recover from," federal on-scene coordinator Jennifer Williams said during a press conference Tuesday night.

Williams added that the oil spill has been classified as a "Medium Spill," noting that a 1,500 foot boom was deployed to recover some of the spilled oil. Although she did not know the exact amount of what was spilled, she said in the press conference that the equivalent of 20 barrels of oil had been recovered.

Flores reported that in addition to the Coast Guard, County Fire crews, environmental and state Park officials and an ExxonMobil official were called to the scene. The source of the oil spill has since been capped, while the affected beach and campground have been shut down.

"The California Department of Fish and Wildlife closed fishing and shell fish harvesting in Santa Barbara County 1 mile in each direction from Refugio State Beach," Flores wrote. "This [happened] at the recommendation of the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment following the oil spill."

Lara Cooper and Giana Magnoli of Noozhawk reported that the affected pipeline carried crude from Exxon's Las Flores Canyon plant to the oil refinery in Gaviota. Officials indicated that more people and resources will arrive in the area to help in the clean-up efforts.

"Plains All American Pipeline is responsible for the cleanup effort," Cooper and Magnoli wrote, citing officials.

Noozhawk also published a statement from Plains All American Pipeline in regards to events that lead to the spill.

"Plains shut down the flow of oil in the pipeline and has initiated its emergency response plan," the company wrote. "The culvert has been blocked so no additional oil is reaching the water. Plains is working with local officials and first responders on site to begin clean up and remediation efforts."

The company added that it was "making every effort to limit its environmental impact."

"Our focus remains on ensuring the safety of all involved," the company wrote. "No injuries have been reported at this time."

According to Flores, Plains All-American Pipeline had a history of prior spills in its operations. Information from the EPA and U.S. Justice Department noted that 10 serious crude oil spills happened under the company's watch in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Kansas.

"In 2010, the company reached a settlement with the EPA for a $3.25 million dollars civil penalty for violating the Clean Water Act," Flores wrote. "The company also agreed to spend $41 million dollars to upgrade more than 10,000 miles of crude oil pipelines."

John Kane told Noozhawk that he was part of a group that was fishing in a boat when he noticed the smell from the spill. He claimed that he never saw a spill on such a massive scale.

"Thank God we realized and didn't eat anything we caught," Kane said. "What a mess."

Tags : oil spill California, California coast, Santa Barbara County, Refugio State Beach, US Coast Guard, Plains All-American Pipeline, California, California environment, oil spill environmental impact, oil slick, Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, Justice Department, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, ExxonMobil