Vanessa Mendoza
Staff Writer
An oil spill occurred on October 2, 2021 that has caused lots of damage to the environment and has led people to assume what is next for the future.

Credit: KQED.org

On Saturday, October 2, 2021, Huntington Beach Mayor Kim Carr said a leak from an offshore oil production facility spilled 3,000 barrels of oil, which is about 126,000 gallons. 

     Officials said the leak is expected to have occurred about 4.5 miles offshore, and on Monday night, October 4, state and federal officials updated the potential oil spill amount to around 144,000 gallons, meaning that it was worse than everyone initially anticipated. 

     Carr said that the U.S coast guard was not notified of the spill until around 9:00 in the morning on October 2. The oil had ended up reaching the shore on Sunday, Oct. 3, in the early morning. 

     Investigators have reason to believe that a 1,200 foot cargo ship dragging anchor in rough seas ended up catching an underwater oil pipeline and pulling it across the seafloor, months before the leak had originally  occurred. 

    A team of federal investigators trying to chase down the cause of the spill boarded the Panama-registered MSC DANIT just hours after the massive ship had arrived on the weekend of October 16 off the Port of Long Beach, the same area where the leak was discovered earlier this month.

     Coast Guard Lt. j.g. Sondra Kay Kneen said that during a prior visit by the ship during a heavy storm in January, investigators believe its anchor dragged for an unknown distance before striking the 16-inch steel pipe. 

     Kneen also said that the impact would have knocked an inch-thick concrete casing off the pipe and pulled it more than 100 feet, bending but not breaking the line. 

     What is still undetermined is whether or not the impact caused the October leak, or if the line was hit by something else at a later date or even failed due to a preexisting problem. 

     The Coast Guard designated the owner and operator as parties of interest in its investigation into the spill, estimated to have released about 25,000 gallons of crude into the water, killing birds, fish and mammals. 

     The accident fouled beaches and wetlands and led to temporary closures for cleanup work. It has reignited the debate over offshore drilling in federal waters in the Pacific, where hundreds of miles of pipelines were installed decades ago. 

     As the oil started spreading to more beaches, Laguna Beach closed all its beaches, asking that “all individuals remain clear of the beach and pay close attention to any beach closure or warning signs,” according to a statement released by the city. 

     The Coast Guard has recovered 3,150 gallons of oil from the water as of Sunday night, and 5,360 feet of boom have been deployed. 

     The shoreside response was conducted by 105 government agency personnels. Fourteen boats conducted oil recovery operations while three Coast Guard boats enforced a safety zone off 1,000 yards around the oil spill boats. 

     Also, four aircrafts were dispatched for overflight assessments. The final day of the Pacific Airshow was canceled in order to facilitate cleanup operations.

      In addition, residents were advised not to swim, surf or exercise near the beach due to the potential health hazards, such as toxic fumes. 

     Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley said,”You can’t get wildlife back that are killed in this process, and some of the habitat of the plant species, they’re going to be impacted for years to come.” 

     Damage to the environment is not the only thing that is feared because there have been many reports of surfers getting sick. 

     One surfer even stated, “It feels like you have a thick coating in your mouth, if you’re out there too long. It’s definitely the vapors in the air, and they’re impacting the environment.” 

     Animal Rescuers confirmed that Marine animals will be taken to the Pacific Marine Mammal Center, where they will be triaged and later sent to SeaWorld San Diego for rehabilitation. 

     The Pacific Marine Mammal Center is currently in a “holding pattern” as it awaits the arrival of oiled animals in the next hours, days and weeks. Ocean conservation nonprofit Oceana urged policymakers to begin a widespread shift to clean energy and to end offshore drilling to prevent future spills. 

     The Huntington Beach oil spill is just the latest in American waters this past month. After Hurricane Ida tore through the Gulf Coast in early September, it left a trail of oil in its wake, with nearly 350 oil spills reported to the Coast Guard in the days after the storm made landfall. 

     An analysis by the organization also found that ending new leasing for offshore oil and gas in the U.S. could prevent over 19 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions as well as more than $720 billion in damages to people, property and the environment in the country. 

      The California Department of Wildlife has set up a hotline to report wildlife impacted by the oil. Individuals are advised not to handle the wildlife but to report any incidents to 877-8233-6926.