The state and local beaches opened at 6 am on Monday morning, and just over a week later, an oil pipeline spilled thousands of gallons of crude oil into the Pacific Ocean.
Officials said they have recovered at least 5,544 gallons of oil and 13.6 barrels of tar balls. They said that in the worst case, more than 131,000 gallons of water could leak into the water.
“The health and safety of our residents and visitors are of paramount importance. We understand the importance of our beaches to the tourism, economy and overall livelihoods of Huntington Beach,” Huntington Beach Mayor Kim Carr said in a press statement. “Importantly, our decision to reopen the coastline and waters must be based on data, and we will continue to monitor the water quality in the future.”
People going to the beach should be alert to toxic odors and avoid areas with oil stains and tar balls.
The California Department of Justice is investigating the leak, and Attorney General Robert Bonta announced at a media conference on Monday.
The State Department of Justice said in a statement that the State Department of Justice is working with other federal, state and local authorities to determine the cause of the leak and is evaluating whether it can prevent or minimize the emergency.
“The oil spill along Huntington Beach is an environmental disaster, with a profound impact on our fish and wildlife, our communities and our economy,” Bonta said. “My office is committed to investing the necessary personnel and resources to ensure that this environmental disaster is fully investigated. Regardless of the facts, we will follow the facts.”
The crack may have occurred a year ago
According to Jason Neubauer, director of the Office of Investigation and Analysis of the United States Coast Guard, the pipeline was intact in October 2020 and was then deflected by 105 feet, which eventually caused damage and cracks in its casing.
They believe that the 13-inch linear crack was probably caused by a ship’s anchor dragged along the bottom.
A video released by the Coast Guard on Thursday showed marine life on the damaged part of the pipeline, which was initially sealed with concrete. Neubauer explained that a linear crack in the pipe can be a very gradual crack that will get worse over time.
Neubauer said: “After the initial incident, this incident may have multiple incidents and strikes on the pipeline. We are very confident that these incidents occurred months to a year ago.”
Investigators are also checking geological events, including severe weather in mid-January, which may be the cause of the cracks. Part of the pipeline will be taken to the National Transportation Safety Committee laboratory, so investigators can determine when and how the leak occurred.
Although there have been similar anchor strikes in the past 10 years, Neubauer stated that only one incident led to the oil spill, which he called a “rare incident.”
CNN’s Alexandra Meeks, Stella Chan, and Dakin Andone contributed to this report.