The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors summoned state officials to testify Tuesday on how to stop oil seeping onto Summerland’s beaches from wells that were abandoned in the early 1900s.

State Oil and Gas Supervisor Elena Miller and Greg Scott, chief of the State Lands Commission’s Mineral Resources Management Division, explained how state agencies and the county could cooperate to properly plug the antiquated wells for good. Scott told the board it would take at least $500,000 to see the job done.

“I think this is a predicament made by private sources, and it’s the responsibility of the state to step up,” First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal, whose county district includes Summerland.

The problem stems from wells drilled in the late 19th century to early 20th century when there were no standards or technology to properly cap oil wells. This allowed many now extinct oil companies to cap oil wells with things such as telephone poles, rocks and scrap metal, according to a letter by Carbajal to the board.

There are 412 inactive or abandoned wells in the Summerland area, 220 of which are on the beach or near shore, according to the letter. Three were successfully recapped in the early 1990s.

Scott cited UCSB studies done on Summerland’s predominant, natural oil seeps that estimate only 1 percent to 2 percent of the oil that residents are seeing comes from man-made sources.

Despite that being a relatively small amount of oil, Carbajal called for a master plan of how man-made oil seeps in Summerland could be stopped.

The board ultimately did not allocate any funds to such a plan, and instead voted to have the county coordinate with state agencies to secure any available grants.

Although Miller was asked to comment only about Summerland, she also testified about the practice of hydraulic fracturing, a controversial method used to extract more oil by injecting pressurized chemicals into the ground.

She said “fracking,” as it is commonly called, is exempt from the restrictions of the Clean Water Act.

County residents Chris Wrather of Los Alamos and Bob Field of Santa Ynez expressed concerns that fracturing might be contaminating groundwater.

“I think if it’s illegal to inject something into the water supply, it should be illegal to inject it into the ground,” said Field, president of his area’s mutual water company.

Miller said her agency monitors water wells and has not found any signs of dangerous hydrocarbons. She encouraged anyone with evidence of contaminated water wells to contact her immediately.

“Honestly, I don’t think that the federal government or the state government is going to enact any legislation with teeth,” Wrather said. “I think it’s up to you (the board) to protect us.”

Noozhawk intern Daniel Langhorne can be reached at dlanghorne@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.