Tuesday, May 22 , 2018, 8:04 pm | Fair 63º


Local News

Initial Refugio Oil Spill Cleanup Nearly Complete, with 91 Percent of Shoreline Deemed Clear

Closures of nearby beaches, fisheries and southbound Highway 101 lanes still in effect

Crews remove the boom from Refugio State Beach on Saturday. No signs of oil on water from the Plains All American Pipeline 901 rupture on May 19 have been reported since June 3, and the shoreline cleanup was 91 percent complete as of Monday.
Crews remove the boom from Refugio State Beach on Saturday. No signs of oil on water from the Plains All American Pipeline 901 rupture on May 19 have been reported since June 3, and the shoreline cleanup was 91 percent complete as of Monday. (Eric Laughlin / California Department of Fish & Wildlife photo)

The initial Refugio oil spill cleanup efforts are nearly finished, according to the multiagency unified command handling the response.

Shoreline teams have cleared 91 percent of the southern Santa Barbara County and northern Ventura County coastline, but workers are still cleaning up oiled vegetation, sand and soil near the spill’s source at Refugio State Beach. Crews wearing hazardous materials suits are scraping crude oil off the immovable rocks and boulders along the beaches, as they have for weeks.

On Saturday, responders removed the protective boom that was placed onshore to protect sensitive areas from oil, including creeks and state beach areas.

No oil has been found in the water since June 3, but there are three boats on scene monitoring the area.  

The fishery closure is still in effect between Coal Oil Point and Gaviota State Park, impacting the area offshore up to seven miles out. Both Refugio and El Capitan state beaches are also still closed, with the possibility that the campgrounds will still be closed for the Fourth of July weekend.

Plains All American Pipeline, the company responsible for the ruptured pipeline, said that sampling for finfish and shellfish has been started, which is part of the procedure for reopening fisheries.

Plains is operating a claims line at 866.753.3619 for anyone with economic damages from the spill. One local fisherman has filed a class-action lawsuit related to the fishery closure.

The portion of badly corroded, ruptured pipeline that caused the spill has been removed and sent to a laboratory for testing, while a replacement pipe was installed a few weeks ago. Once testing confirms oil in the soil near the pipe has been completely removed, the underground pipe will be recovered with clean soil, according to Plains.

The federal regulatory agency that oversees pipeline operations and safety ordered Plains to shut down the ruptured pipeline and its connecting 130-mile pipeline that runs north through Santa Barbara County taking crude oil from offshore oil platforms to refineries.

A full work plan and review of past inspection data has to be submitted and reviewed by the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration before those pipelines can be put back into operation and there has been no estimate of how long that will take.

The southbound Highway 101 lane closures near Refugio State Beach could last for weeks more, with no estimated end date, according to unified command. The single-lane closure is in place from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, with heavy equipment staged to help with clean-up near the spill site. There were no closures Tuesday, but they will be back on Wednesday. 

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.

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