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Oil Sheen Offshore from Goleta Beach Likely Caused by Natural Seepage

Helicopter overflight determined slick was 3 miles long and a half mile wide, moving towards Santa Barbara

The oil sheen off Goleta Beach as it appeared Thursday during a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter overflight. The Coast Guard reportedly has determined the slick is from natural seepage, but has not stated an official cause.
The oil sheen off Goleta Beach as it appeared Thursday during a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter overflight. The Coast Guard reportedly has determined the slick is from natural seepage, but has not stated an official cause. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

[Scroll down for video from the scene]

The U.S. Coast Guard reportedly has determined that an oil slick discovered Wednesday offshore from Goleta Beach County Park likely was the result of natural seepage.

However, the official cause is pending completion of a Coast Guard investigation, and conflicting information has been put out by public agencies.

A Coast Guard helicopter flew over the area and determined that the slick or sheen was about three miles long and half a mile wide, said Lt. Jeremy Maginot of the Coast Guard Marine Safety Detachment during an afternoon press conference.

"We are actively investigating where it could have originated from," Maginot said, adding that natural seeps are common in the area.

On Wednesday evening, Capt. Dave Zaniboni of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department reported that the Coast Guard had made the determination regarding the source of the slick.

However, on Thursday Zaniboni clarified that an official determination by the Coast Guard had not been made.

A Coast Guard helicopter was to conduct additional survey flights on Thursday, and the agency reiterated that no source had been found.

County officials planned to continue monitoring the sheen to determine if any action is warranted, he said.

The sheen was moving south-southeast "in the general vicinity of Santa Barbara, not to Santa Barbara," Maginot said.

He described the slick as having “sporadic coverage,” which means 30-percent coverage of the water with a light sheen, Maginot said.

At midday Wednesday, oil and tar were observed washing up on the shoreline at Goleta Beach. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

Some sheen was noted in the area of Platform Holly, where other natural seeps are active.

“There have been no incidents at Venoco facilities,” said Keith Wenal, manager  of health, environment and safety for Venoco Inc., which operates Holly.

The oil in the water "is not in a state that it can be recovered with traditional resources," Maginot said.

Samples were being taken both onshore and offshore by Coast Guard investigators, and they will be analyzed by a lab, Maginot said.

Bob Seiler cleans off his kayak Wednesday at Goleta Beach after he and a friend encountered an oil slick offshore. The U.S. Coast Guard reportedly has determined the oil was the result of natural seepage. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

Santa Barbara County fire crews were dispatched to Goleta Beach shortly before 10 a.m. after two kayakers reported encountering the slick about 1,000 feet offshore from Goleta Pier, according to fire Capt. Dave Zaniboni.

"It was just nasty," one of the kayakers, Henry Duncan of Santa Barbara, told Noozhawk. "There were oil clumps everywhere.”

He and fellow kayaker Bob Seiler estimated the slick covered about a mile when they first encountered it.

"“It’s no small little glob," Seiler said. "I’ve never seen anything like this out here.”

Both men said they kayak in the area frequently, including two or three times last week.

Bob Seiler's legs are coated with oil Wednesday morning after he put them over the side of the kayak and into the water off Goleta Beach. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

At midday, oil and tar were observed washing up on the beach with the rising tide.

People at one point were being kept out of the water, but the ocean and beach remained open, according to county officials.

State and federal officials and the Coast Guard were notified about the incident and had personnel on scene.

Noozhawk Staff Writer Lara Cooper reported from the scene.

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Oil washing up at Goleta Beach from Noozhawk on Vimeo.

This video was taken around noon on Wednesday at Goleta Beach.

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