Oil spill cleanup continues, few animals impacted
May 23, 2015
Three days after thousands of gallons of oil from a ruptured pipeline poured into the ocean west of Goleta, officials report three dead pelicans and one dead common dolphin, though the cause of dolphin’s death has not been determined.
A portion of the pipeline ruptured near Refugio State Beach in the early afternoon on Tuesday. Between 21,000 to 105,000 gallons of oil spilled into a culvert that runs under Highway 101 and then into a ditch that drains into the ocean.
The amount of oil spilled is similar to the amount of water it takes to fill a backyard pool.
In context, the 1989 Exxon-Valdez spill off Alaska dumped 11 million to 38 million gallons of oil into the ocean. The immediate death toll included 100,000 to as many as 250,000 seabirds, at least 2,800 sea otters, approximately 12 river otters, 300 harbor seals, 247 bald eagles, and 22 orcas, and an unknown number of salmon and herring.
In the waters off Santa Barbara County, officials report six pelicans, three sea lions and one elephant seal appeared ill because of the oil and were transported to rehabilitation facilities.
Crude oil transport company Plains All American Pipeline shut down the ruptured pipeline three hours after identifying the leak discovered when crews noticed a change in pressure in the line.
Both the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office and the California Attorney General’s Office are investigating the spill and could pursue criminal prosecution or a civil fine. Federal regulators are also investigating the leak.
There are no clear estimates as to when the cleanup will conclude.