Aerial views of an oil slick that appeared off the coast of Summerland this week.
Aerial views of an oil slick that appeared off the coast of Summerland this week. Credit: U.S. Coast Guard photo

The cause and extent of an oil sheen reported off the coast of Summerland in southern Santa Barbara County remained under investigation on Saturday. 

The sheen, spanning up to an estimated 2 miles long, was reported to be 5 nautical-miles off Santa Barbara.

“At this point, we haven’t determined the source of that sheen that was observed yesterday,” said Eric Laughlin, spokesman for the state Office of Spill Prevention and Response. “We’re doing and investigation. We’ve taken some samples so those will be analyzed to try to determine the source.”

At 2:34 p.m. Friday, watchstanders from the U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Detachment Santa Barbara were notified by the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services of a possible oil sheen in the water, Coast Guard officials said. 

An MH-65 Dolphin helicopter flight crew from the U.S. Coast Guard Air Station San Francisco conducted an overflight of an oil sheen off Summerland Beach on Saturday.

Others involved in the incident include the Santa Barbara County Fire Department and the California State Lands Commission, according to the state OSPR.

No oiled wildlife have been observed at this time but the Oiled Wildlife Care Network has been notified and remains on standby, OSPR representatives said. 

The area has a history of natural seepage.

“It’s definitely not uncommon to have natural seepage. We just want to do our due diligence and do some investigative work to determine the source of the sheen,” Loughlin said.

It’s the second oil-related incident that crews have handled in Santa Barbara County in the week. 

On Jan. 1, authorities responded to a report of oil in a creek in the 1000 block of Toro Canyon Road. 

Emergency crews initiated protective actions that included damming, and the use of absorbent pads and booms to minimize the impact of the oil. Crews completed surveys of the area Friday “and determined that no additional recoverable product remains in the environment.”

“Santa Barbara County will continue to monitor the area throughout the upcoming storms to ensure that no additional product is released and will resume standard maintenance operations at the site,” said Lael Wageneck, public information officer for the Santa Barbara County Public Works Department

The oil is from a natural seepage well built by the Occidental Oil Co. in 1882, officials have said.

The amount of oil discharged, impacts, and the cause had not been determined as of Friday. 

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Janene Scully | Noozhawk North County Editor

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at