Saturday, September 22 , 2018, 12:25 pm | Overcast with Haze 65º

 
 
 
 

Local News

Crews Work to Uncover Ruptured Pipeline, Continue Cleanup of Refugio Oil Spill

The cause of the rupture is still unknown, with more than 6,000 gallons of oil removed so far and more than 800 people involved in the response effort

Cleanup equipment dots the coastline near Refugio State Beach as oil-spill response crews continue to remove crude oil from the ocean and beaches.
Cleanup equipment dots the coastline near Refugio State Beach as oil-spill response crews continue to remove crude oil from the ocean and beaches. (Zack Warburg / Noozhawk photo)

As part of the investigation into the cause of last week's oil spill near Refugio State Beach, crews are preparing to excavate the underground pipeline, officials said Monday.

Cleanup efforts by boom-bearing boats and shoreline assessment crews are still going strong, with more than 800 people involved in the response effort as of Monday, according to the U.S. Coast Guard, which is one of the leading agencies within the incident’s unified command. 

The spill began late on the morning of May 19, when a 24-inch line owned by Plains All American Pipeline ruptured on the north side of Highway 101 near Refugio State Beach, sending an estimated 21,000 gallons of oil down through a culvert, onto the beach and into the ocean. The spill site is about 10 miles west of the City of Goleta

Officials have estimated that as much as 101,000 gallons leaked altogether, with the bulk remaining on shore.

Plains decreased the worst-case scenario from 105,000 gallons to 101,000 gallons on Sunday. As of Monday morning, officials said 6,090 gallons of oil had been removed by vacuum trucks, skimmer boats and other sources.

Federal officials issued an order to have Plains shut down the ruptured pipe indefinitely and remove the damaged section of pipe, which will be sent off for metallurgical testing.

Line 901 carried crude oil from ExxonMobil and Venoco Inc. offshore oil platforms in southern Santa Barbara County north to Plains’ Gaviota pump station. The cause of the pipe rupture is still unknown. 

Patrick Hodgins, safety and security director for Plains, said the pipeline is monitored and inspected regularly, with the most recent inspection done in early May.

A preliminary report back from that inspection shows four areas along Line 901 where they will do “confirmation digs” to see if any maintenance work is necessary. He compared the process to a maintenance light coming on in a car.

“We regret the impact this incident has had on the community, and pledge to remain aggressively engaged in the recovery efforts until the job is done,” Plains said in a statement.

The company will be paying all of the oil-spill response costs.

The unified command for the spill response is dedicated to not using dispersants to clean up the oil, Coast Guard Commander Charlene Downey said Monday.

In addition to boats using hard booms and absorbent booms to collect oil on the ocean surface, crews are using fire hoses and water to “herd” oil away from environmentally-sensitive areas such as kelp forests, she said.

According to the California Department of Fish & Wildlife's Oil Spill Prevention and Response, state regulations prohibit using dispersants on or along shorelines, and other policies limit the use of dispersants in water less than 60 feet deep. 

"Experts also knew that dispersants would not be effective on this type of heavy oil," OSPR said in a statement on its Facebook page. "Other factors influencing the decision, included difficulty in avoiding contact with near-shore wildlife, especially sensitive species like snowy plover. When analyzing dispersant use, the final determinant is whether there would be an overall environmental benefit, and there would not have been one in this case." 

The state, County of Santa Barbara and Goleta declared states of emergency after the spill, and so far, there has been no oil on the shoreline southeast of El Capitan State Beach that has been confirmed to be from the Refugio oil spill.

There is a slick offshore of the Goleta area — and there were boats booming in the area of Haskell’s Beach on Monday evening — but that oil may from natural seepage near Coal Oil Point, said Jordan Stout of NOAA.

Yvonne Addassi, deputy director of the Department of Fish & Wildlife’s Oil Spill Prevention and Response, said oil is being removed from large boulders near Refugio State Beach with shovels and wire brushes, but crews are not removing the mussels, barnacles or kelp from the boulders.

There is an active fishery closure for the area between Gaviota and Coal Oil Point, up to seven miles out to sea, and the campgrounds and day-use areas at Refugio and El Capitan state beaches remain closed to visitors.

As of Sunday night, crews had found 17 oil-impacted birds and 10 oil-impacted mammals, as well as nine dead oil-impacted birds and six dead oil-impacted mammals, said warden Santos Cabral, state on scene coordinator for the spill response.

Anyone who finds oil-impacted wildlife is asked to report the animal to the Oiled Wildlife Care Network at 877.823.6926.

Volunteers are being accepted to help with cleanup efforts after they participate in hazardous-materials training, and more information can be found by clicking here.

Noozhawk news editor Giana Magnoli 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.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Email
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership
×

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >