Oil Spill Hits Coastal OC, Newport Beach Waters

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Crude oil collects on the ocean side of a sand berm created Oct. 3 to prevent intrusion into the Santa Ana River following an oil spill off Huntington Beach. Photo by Breeana Greenberg/Firebrand Media

Authorities are responding to a 5.8-square-mile oil spill reported off the coast of Newport Beach first reported Saturday night.

The U.S. Coast Guard and Huntington Beach Police Department have dispatched aircraft to access the situation, according to a press release issued by the Long Beach-based Unified Command.

Public access to the ocean was closed from the Huntington Beach Pier to the Santa Ana River Jetty on Sunday.

The oil slick is believed to have leaked from a pipeline off of Huntington Beach, discharging 126,000 gallons into the coastal waters, the Los Angeles Times reports. Federal and state officials had initially reported the spill spanning about 13 square miles late Saturday.

The unified command consists of Beta Offshore, the U.S. Coast Guard, California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response. Supporting agencies are the cities of Long Beach, Newport Beach, and Huntington Beach, and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.

State officials are monitoring the coastline for oiled wildlife. If anyone encounters oiled wildlife they should not approach. Call the Oiled Wildlife Care Network at 1-877-823-6926.

“Our team has been monitoring the situation very closely since it was first reported,” Pacific Marine Mammal Center CEO Peter Chang said Saturday night. “We prepare for times like this by having staff that are trained members of the overarching Oiled Wildlife Care Network. If and when affected animals are reported, the enhanced protocols required for these special cases are activated.”

The cause of the spill, volume, and type of oil are under investigation. Orange County crews dammed the Santa Ana River’s outlet to the Ocean with sand on Sunday to prevent oil from intruding upstream.

In light of the spill, Huntington Beach has canceled the final day of the Pacific Air Show.

Rep. Michelle Steel (R-Seal Beach) asked the Biden administration Sunday to declare a major disaster in Orange County, requesting fact action in approving public and individual assistance for impacted cities and counties.

“Dead fish and birds have already been reported on beaches and shorelines,” Steel wrote in a letter. “I have serious concerns about the environmental impacts of the spill and applauded the workers who are doing their best to prevent the oil from hitting sensitive wetlands.”

Breeana Greenberg contributed reporting to this story.

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