A Santa Barbara, California oil spill has left thousands of gallons floating in the Pacific Ocean.
On Tuesday May 19, a pipeline ruptured in Santa Barbara County causing about 105,000 gallons of crude oil to spill; tens of thousands of which have gone into the Pacific Ocean.
Karen M. Rugaard of Plains All American Pipeline told reporters, the cause for the rupture will remain unknown until the 24-inch wide pipeline is excavated. Yet prior to the spill, there were a series of mechanical problems that caused the line to be shut down.
Installed in 1987, the underground pipeline leaked onto Refugio State Beach where photographer Reece Woolpert found a pelican covered in oil. “I said this bird wants to live, it’s a fighter,” Woolpert said before he wrapped the bird in a t-shirt and delivered it to a fish and wildlife worker for cleaning.
The California coast is a specially diverse oceanic ecosystem. Especially near Santa Barbara, there are habitats for a wide-range of coastal birds, plants and animals. In the spring, humpback whales are traveling up from Baja, California migrating with their newborn young. Linda Krop, chief counsel for the Santa Barbara-based Environmental Defense Center said:
Right now we have migratory whales, including endangered humpbacks and blue whales. We also have gray whales migrating back from Baja [California] to Alaska, and they come closer to shore. We also have a lot of very rare seabirds and other coastal endangered species. It’s a very, very sensitive, important place and we don’t know what the eventual harm will be.
Darren Palmer, District Manager for Plains All American told reporters, “We’re sorry this accident has happened, and we’re sorry for the inconvenience to the community.”
The U.S. Coast Guard is supervising the clean up at Refugio and nearby El Capitan State Beach, which have been shut down for the weekend for camping, fishing and harvesting shellfish. Officials report more than 6,000 gallons have been removed already using skimmers and booms.
“This stretch of the California coast is unique in the world,” Santa Barbara County Supervisor Doreen Farr said in a press conference. “This is more than an inconvenience, this is a disaster.”
All images via LA Times