Wednesday, November 14 , 2018, 4:26 pm | Fair 70º


Summerland Beach Closed Due to Oil, Petroleum Vapors

Santa Barbara County Public Health Department warns of adverse health effects; length of closure uncertain

Summerland Beach, pictured here, has been closed to the public due to a large amount of oil found on the beach and petroleum vapors in the area.
Summerland Beach, pictured here, has been closed to the public due to a large amount of oil found on the beach and petroleum vapors in the area. (Santa Barbara County Public Health Department)

Summerland Beach is closed to the public in order to prevent adverse health effects due to the volume of oil on the beach and sand and strong petroleum odors in the area, the Santa Barbara County Public Health announced Friday afternoon.

Located beneath Santa Barbara County’s Lookout Park, Summerland Beach extends eastward towards Loon Point.  

Officials said the area could remain closed through the weekend and did not know when it would reopen.

The beach will continue to be monitored by various county agencies including Public Health, Parks, and the Air Pollution Control District.

"The public is reminded that avoiding exposure to crude oil compounds is strongly recommended," according to a statement from the Public Health Department.

Earlier in the day, officials had issued a warning to people in the area, but by late afternoon, the beach had been fully closed.

The department warned of exposure from oil vapors, contact with skin or ingesting crude oil through contaminated seawater or seafood.

“Depending on the level of exposure, breathing crude oil vapors may cause coughing and throat irritation, headache and nausea, drowsiness, or dizziness,” according to an earlier statement from Public Health.

Skin and eye contact can also cause irritation and redness, and people who discover crude oil or tar balls on their skin should wash the area immediately with soap and water.

“Some people may be more sensitive to these the chemical components of crude oil compounds than others, and avoiding exposure is recommended,” the statement said.

The cause of the oily substance at the beach is unknown at this point, though department officials said they do not believe it is directly related to Refugio Oil Spill that occurred on May 19.

Mary Byrd, spokeswoman for the Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District, said that inspectors would be testing air quality on Friday afternoon and would have results back in several days.

Byrd said that the office has gotten complaints from Summerland residents about oil smells off and on for several years, and noted that there is a history of oil wells in that area.

On Wednesday, the State Lands Commission approved studying the oil resources in that area, and some Summerland residents appeared at that hearing, she said.

Byrd urged the public to stay out of the area if the smell of oil persists, and said that the APCD can be reached at (805)681-8800 for more information.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper 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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