California Beaches Close As Worst Oil Spill In Decades Threatens Wildlife


Tom Hale

Tom is a writer in London with a Master's degree in Journalism whose editorial work covers anything from health and the environment to technology and archaeology.

Senior Journalist

California oil spill.

LONG BEACH, Calif. – Crude oil is shown in the Pacific Ocean offshore of Orange County, Oct. 3, 2021. Image credit: U.S. Coast Guard

An environmental disaster has struck the coast of Southern California after an oil spill gushed thousands of gallons of oil into the Pacific Ocean.

The large oil spill was identified Saturday, October 2 off the coast of California’s Orange County miles from the coast of Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, and Laguna Beach. Approximately 3,000 barrels worth (126,000-gallons) of oil has been spilled into the sea, according to an announcement by the City Of Laguna Beach, creating an oil slick plume around 33.6 square kilometers (13 square miles) in size. 


The cause of the spill is still under investigation, as per the US Coast Guard. However, it’s believed to be a leak of a pipeline owned by Texan fossil fuel company Amplify Energy who notified the US Coast Guard of the leak over the weekend. Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley said a broken pipeline connected to an offshore oil platform named Elly, with the source of the spill appearing to emerge 2.8 nautical miles off California's beaches. 

Numerous local authorities have told residents to stay well clear of the contaminated water and seek medical attention if they come into contact with the contaminated materials.

"The ramifications will extend further than the visible oil and odor that our residents are dealing with at the moment. The impact to the environment is irreversible," Foley tweeted on Saturday.


The full ecological impact of the oil spill is not crystal clear at this present time, but it's safe to say that things are not looking good. Authorities are using temporary floating barriers, known as boom, and skimming to avert the oil spill from ecological sensitive sites, although it appears that the disaster is already taking its toll on the local wildlife. The City of Huntington Beach has reported that oil-covered fish and birds have already washed up along their coastline.


“The oil from the spill has already washed up onto Huntington Beach and the Talbert Marsh wetlands, an area that’s home to vibrant birdlife, including great blue herons, pelicans and endangered California least terns, which migrate up the Pacific Coast,” Laura Deehan, Environment California State Director, remarked in a statement. “The coast is also the habitat for myriad non-avian marine life; from fish that we eat, such as tuna and sea bass, to sea turtles, dolphins and whales. This spill threatens all of them.”

For many environmentalists watching this disaster unfold, the oil spill is yet another reminder of the dangers brought by fossil fuels. 

“The hundred-thousand of gallons of oil that spilled into the ocean near Huntington Beach provide a stark and dark reminder that oil is dirty, dangerous, and can make our air and water too toxic for life,” added Deehan.


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