As of Wednesday night, the oil spill from a ruptured onshore pipeline in Santa Barbara has now spread across 9 miles of ocean, and officials are now saying that up to 105,000 gallons may have leaked out of the pipe at the site of the rupture. Up to a fifth of that amount — about 21,000 gallons — likely drained into the sea.
The spill was first reported on Tuesday and came from a 24-inch pipe built in 1991, which reportedly had no previous problems. The pipe is used to transport crude from an onshore facility toward other refineries for refinement. The pipe had 54,600 gallons an hour of crude oil flowing through it at at the time of the leak. The oil spilled into a culvert running under a highway, then into a storm drain that emptied into the ocean.
On Wednesday afternoon, federal regulators were investigating the ruptured pipe, and workers in protective suits raked and shoveled the stinky black goo off the beaches. Boats just offshore also towed booms into place to corral the two slicks off the Santa Barbara coast. Reportedly, cleanup crews collected more than 6,000 gallons of oil – about 30% of the amount estimated to be in the water.
The chief executive of Plains All American Pipeline LP, was at the site of the spill Wednesday and apologized for the spill.
“We deeply, deeply regret that this incident has occured at all,” Chairman and CEO Greg L. Armstrong said at a news conference. “We apologize for the damage that it’s done to the wildlife and to the environment and we’re very sorry for the disruption and inconvenience that it’s caused on the citizens and the visitors to this area.”
Armstrong said the company would continue cleanup operations around the clock, and stated that they “will remain here until everything has been restored to normal.”
As a result of the spill, state parks officials closed Refugio State Beach and El Capitan State Beach from now until over the Memorial Day weekend. Camping reservations have been cancelled through May 28 in an effort to expedite clean-up efforts. Campers with reservation during this time will be provided a full refund through Reserve America. The state Department of Fish and Wildlife has also closed fishing and shellfish harvesting for a mile east and west of Refugio beach, and launched large oil-catching booms to help protect the nesting and foraging habitat of the snowy plover and the least tern, both endangered shore birds who live here.
On Wednesday night, Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency because of the spill, a move that frees up additional state funding and resources to help in the cleanup.