A major oil spill has reached the sands of Southern California, killing birds and fish and forcing the closure of beaches. A cleanup operation of the slick that the Coast Guard said covers about 13 square miles. The spill was reported Saturday, and by Sunday, oil had washed ashore, bringing the stench of diesel and tar to Huntington State Beach, the Los Angeles Times reports. Dark oil reached the shore in clumps and rings on the waves. Officials warned of "significant ecological impacts" to wetlands as well as the beaches. Dead fish and birds have washed up along the shoreline.
The leak, caused by a broken pipeline running to an oil rig about five miles out, was reported Saturday. It dumped 126,000 gallons of crude into the water, officials said. The leak continued through Saturday night, per NBC. Divers had done some patching by Sunday but hadn't yet stopped the flow, per CNN. Skimming equipment and booms, which are floating barriers, were being used to keep the oil from reaching ecologically fragile areas. Newport Beach's mayor, while on his boat, reportedly saw dolphins swimming through the oil slicks. The Coast Guard is investigating.
"There’s tar everywhere," said a biologist who surveyed the damage Sunday at Huntington Beach. The harm could be widespread, Ben Smith said. "It contaminated the water—it's bad for the wildlife, bad for the water, bad for the people who use the water. It's really unfortunate." City officials urged people to stay away and canceled the last day of the Pacific Airshow. There's also the expense of the cleanup, said Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley, and the losses involved in "shutting down a major tourist destination during a pandemic when we've all been struggling." (Read more oil spill stories.)