HUNTINGTON BEACH (Calif.) — Environmentalists were alarmed when a sheen of crude oil was found in the Southern California waters. They feared that the spillage would cause widespread destruction to the ecosystem.
Although the fate of the region and its famous beaches appears to have been spared, it remains to be seen how the long-term effects on plant and animal life will continue.
According to the Coast Guard, there are a minimum of 25,000 gallons (95,000 L) of oil that was spilled from a leaking pipeline near Orange County. There is no limit of 132,000 gallons (500,000 L)
California Fish and Wildlife Lieutenant Christian Corbo stated that the discharge is less severe than we expect for a worst-case scenario. Based on the lowered threshold, we expect to see less impact to the shoreline and less impacts to wildlife.
After a week of closures at beaches in coastal communities, where the lifeblood of seaside communities is water, this news was welcomed. Officials initially worried that Huntington Beach, referred to as Surf City USA could be closed off to swimmers and surfers for months. On Thursday, Mayor Kim Carr said that she was “cautiously optimistic” that they could be back in water within weeks.
While many beaches remain open for sunbathing or volleyball, it is important that people stay out of the water.
On Oct. 1, a oily sheen was noticed in the water. Officials confirmed the spillage the next day, but it was not until the morning. Coast Guard officials are investigating whether the ship’s anchor may have caught, bent or ruptured Amplify Energy Corp.’s pipeline that transports crude oil from three offshore platforms to a shore facility.
Near the oil platforms, there was no visible shimmer by mid-week and Huntington Beach’s pungent odor had subsided. Birds skimmed the surface of water, while dolphins leapt in the waves.
However, environmentalists warn that the situation is not improving and they worry about the long-term impact on wetlands. Crude oil can remain beneath the ocean’s surface and cause damage to tiny organisms. These include fish that are ingested by the fish and later eaten by birds and marine mammals.
Birds are often the first to be affected by an offshore spillage. Crude oil can stick to birds’ feathers and cause them to become chilled. Ten dead birds from a spillage were discovered over five days. Twenty-five were recovered and sent to a wildlife centre for treatment. Seven snowy plovers were among those that were found, and they are listed as a threatened species by the Oiled Wildlife Care Network.
John Villa, Huntington Beach Wetlands conservancy executive director, said that the community was more affected by a 1990 oil spillage, which left more than 1,000 animals in danger. He said that oil was able to enter three marshes close to the beach in this spillage, but it was quickly contained by barriers.
“It’s not so bad as we feared,” said he, adding that the new challenge is to pump oxygen into the marshes since no water is coming in. “We expected much more trouble in our marshes.”
Mike Lynes, Audubon California’s director of public policy, stated that migratory birds don’t usually arrive in large numbers in the region until November. This may have contributed to the reduction in harm.
He said that many birds are likely to have been affected by oil, but have not been identified. Other species may also be affected, he added. He said that counting the number of oiled birds is not a good way to determine the impact of an oil spillage.
Lynes stated that oil remains in coastal environments and continues to cause all kinds of problems for a long period.
The crude oil has been moving south and tar balls are appearing on beaches 50 miles (80 km) away from the original site. This is a sign of the environmental impact that is increasing.
Garry Brown co-founder of Orange County Coastkeeper said, “We don’t really know what the effects are going to be.” “It’s still early,” it is sad to say.
Most of the problems are below the ocean’s top. Oceana, an ocean conservation group, says that crude oil can kill blue whales by smothering deep-water corals. According to environmental experts, oil can be ingested by fish and can travel up the food chain. The spillage has made fishing impossible for miles around Orange County.
Dan Kalmick is a Huntington Beach councilman and board member of the Bolsa Chica Land Trust wetland conservation group Bolsa Chica Land Trust. He said that things are looking better than they were in the first hours following the spillage. He said that there are still many unknowns about the fate of the crude oil as winds and tides change.
Kalmick explained that “there’s still quite a bit of oil in the water.”