HUNTINGTON BEACH (CBSLA) – The hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil that leaked on Sunday are impacting the Orange County coastal ecosystem, killing wildlife and damaging wetlands.
Authorities said 126,000 gallons of oil leaked from the Elly offshore oil rig on Saturday and began to run aground in Orange County and coastal waters.
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A marine mammal expert says an oil spill can kill anything, from the bottom up.
“It kills things at the base of the food chain down to carnivores like birds and marine mammals, fish,” said Gwen Goodmanlow, Ph.D., CSU Long Mammologist.
The oil was believed to leak from a breach in a pipeline and was labeled a “potential ecological disaster,” CBS Los Angeles’ Joy Benedict reported.
Orange County supervisor Katrina Foley said Sunday Huntington Beach told her the wildlife in Talbert’s wetlands had been “significantly affected.”
“Wildlife is dying. It’s very sad. We have reports of dead animals along the shore, washed up on the shore in the beach area of Huntington Beach State, as well as wildlife in the swamp and wetlands is dying, ”said Foley.
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Elsewhere in Newport Beach, residents and visitors were urged to avoid contact with seawater and oiled areas of the beach, which was to remain open with a water advisory in place. Although no hard closures were reported, a soft closure remained in place of Tower 44 at the Santa Ana River Pier (imploring the public not to enter the water).
“Unfortunately, the size and potential impact of this oil spill is forcing people to stay out of the water and avoid contact with the oil,” said Newport Beach Mayor Brad Avery. “The City’s top priority is ensuring the safety of our residents and visitors during the cleanup effort.
“This oil spill is a tragic reminder that offshore drilling is a devastating threat to our coast and its wildlife,” said Miyoko Sakashita, director of the Oceans program at the Center for Biological Diversity. “I have seen the aging oil rigs off Huntington Beach up close and I know it is high time to decommission these time bombs. Even after fines and criminal charges, the oil industry continues to expand into California’s coastal waters because these companies are simply not able to operate safely. The only solution is to shut down this dirty business.
State wildlife officials said at least one soiled red duck was receiving medical attention, as local wildlife rescue groups mobilized to help.
“We have all of our gear, which includes masks, goggles for our staff,” Debbie McGuire, director of the Wetlands & Wildlife Center in Huntington Beach. declared to the OC register. “We also have IV fluids ready to stabilize the animals.” The center received at least five birds from the spill on Sunday, she said.
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The Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach also made its staff and facilities available if needed.