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Workers continue cleaning up massive oil spill off California coast

21 May 2015 18:50


Workers have collected more than 6,000 gallons of oil from a spill stretching across nine miles off the California coast.

The cleanup effort was being carried out 24 hours a day, officials said on Thursday.

The crude oil, authorities said earlier this week, spilled from a ruptured pipeline on the California coast.

The leak happened near Refugio State Beach, a protected state park, just before a major holiday weekend that marks the summer tourist season across the United States.

Investigators said that up to 105,000 gallons may have leaked from the broken pipeline. So far, as much as a fifth of that amount — 21,000 gallons — reached the sea, authorities said.

The extent of the leak is not certain as the pipeline was an underground one, according to experts.

The pipeline’s owner, Plains All American Pipeline, apologized for the spill. “We deeply, deeply regret that this incident has occurred at all. We apologize for the damage that it’s done to the wildlife and to the environment,” chief executive Greg L. Armstrong told media.

At the time of the leak, crude was flowing through the pipeline at the rate of 54,600 gallons an hour, the company said.

However, company officials didn’t answer questions from reporters about how long the pipe spilled oil before it was discovered and shut down.

Federal supervisory bodies from the US Department of Transportation that oversees oil pipeline safety were investigating the spill.

The pipeline was built back in 1991 and the owner claimed that there had been no previous problems with the pipeline.

Jennifer Williams, a Coast Guard captain, told reporters that, “this spill is unlike ones that we’ve responded to in the past.”

Over 105,000 gallons of crude may have spilled from a pipeline in California. (AFP photo)
The spill originated inland and soaked not only waters of the coast but the coast itself.

“It will continue to disperse over time and spread out due to the winds and currents,” Williams said.

Authorities were concerned about the impacts the oil spill would have on the environment.

“Every effort will be made to minimize the damage to the environment, including taking care of oiled wildlife,” said Mark Crossland with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Fishing and shellfish harvesting in the immediate impacted area in Santa Barbara County were closed until further notice.

The environmental and business damages can total in the tens of millions of dollars when compared to previous oil spills in the US.

The most notable incident was a rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 that led to the largest oil spill in petroleum’s history, affecting millions of people, and millions of square miles of rare and crucial ecosystems.

The owner of the rig, British Petroleum or BP, was fined billions of dollars for damages that some, according to residents, might never recover.

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