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'This Is a Disaster': Oil Spill Fouls California Beaches

Officials estimate 105K gallons leaked from broken pipeline
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 20, 2015 6:10 PM CDT
Updated May 20, 2015 7:00 PM CDT
'This Is a Disaster': Oil Spill Fouls California Beaches
This photo provided by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department shows an oil slick from the broken pipeline off the central California coast near Santa Barbara.   (Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Department via AP)

(Newser) – Cleanup crews are working to contain an oil spill that has spread to 9 miles of the California coast near Santa Barbara. The leak itself is now under control—an underground pipeline that burst yesterday has been shut down—and officials' best guess is that 105,000 gallons of crude leaked, with about 21,000 gallons of that making it to the sea, reports AP. The beach hardest hit is Refugio State Beach, but nearby El Capitan also has been closed, and both will remain so through the Memorial Day weekend. It will take more time to gauge the full extent of damage to wildlife and the environment.

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"This stretch of the California coast is unique in the world," says Santa Barbara County Supervisor Doreen Farr. "This is more than an inconvenience, this is a disaster." The 2-foot-wide pipeline that burst is owned by Plains All American Pipeline and hasn't had a problem since it was built in 1991, reports the Los Angeles Times. Ships from the Coast Guard were using booms to corral the oil. An attorney for the Environmental Defense Center worried about the effect on the Santa Barbara Channel. "It's a very, very sensitive, important place and we don't know what the eventual harm will be." (Read more oil spill stories.)

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