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Oil Spill in Santa Barbara Threatens Wildlife and Memorial Day Beachgoers

Posted: Wednesday, May 20, 2015 – 1:15 PM

(AFP) California authorities scrambled Wednesday to contain an oil slick and clean up normally tourist-friendly beaches after a pipeline rupture dumped thousands of gallons of oil into the ocean, officials said.

A day after the spill near Santa Barbara, northwest of Los Angeles, US Coast Guard spokeswoman Jennifer Williams said helicopter overflights had shown the slick stretched some 9 miles (14 km) along the Pacific Ocean coast.

Teams of white-clad workers used rakes and their hands to collect oil strewn on the sand on Refugio Beach, where a campground was evacuated as the clean-up operation got under way.

The spill was estimated at 21,000 gallons (80,000 liters) of oil, local media reported, but officials said that figure could change as the scale of the slick was evaluated.

Santa Barbara area beaches would normally be preparing to host thousands of visitors for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, but the affected area was out of bounds.

The leak — which began around midday on Tuesday — affected a pipeline operated by Plains All America Pipeline, which stopped the flow of oil, the company said.

It said the oil reached the ocean through a drain which has now been blocked off, and “no additional oil is reaching the water.” Plains All America Pipeline said it does not know how much oil leaked.

“Plains deeply regrets this release has occurred and is making every effort to limit its environmental impact,” the company said in an email.

Santa Barbara was the scene of what was then the largest oil spill in US history in 1969, when several million gallons of crude oil were spent spewing into the ocean after an oil rig blowout.


© 1994-2015 Agence France-Presse

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