Mysterious oil spotted off Goleta coast
July 30, 2015
A little more than two months after thousands of gallons of oil spilled along the Gaviota coast, a mysterious layer of oil appeared offshore of the nearby Goleta Beach. [LA Times]
Around 11 a.m. Wednesday, kayakers spotted oil about 1,000 feet off Goleta Beach. A United States Coast Guard investigation determined the oil had stretched about 3.5 miles long and half a mile wide by Wednesday evening.
Investigators said the oil would dissipate on its own, and Santa Barbara County’s public health director said the oil posed no risk to swimmers. The beaches remained open.
The Coast Guard is currently awaiting lab results that may determine the source of the oil.
A patch of the oil spotted Wednesday was seen floating near a platform owned by Venoco Inc. The company denied involvement, though. A Venoco Inc. representative said its platform was shut down in May, and its pipeline was flushed of oil and refilled with seawater.
Coast Guard investigators say the layer of oil could have come from an ordinary natural seepage. Thousands of gallons of oil flow into the ocean each day at Coal Oil Point, a seep field in the Santa Barbara Channel.
But, federal officials also say the oil could be a remnant of the May 19 Plains All American Pipeline spill. After the pipeline ruptured, 21,000 to 105,000 gallons of oil spilled near Refugio State Beach, and much of it drained into the ocean.
The cleanup of the Refugio spill is still not complete.
Environmental activist Rebecca Claassen, an organizer with Food and Water Watch, said it is too early to minimize the oil spotted Wednesday as a natural occurrence, and it could come from oil platforms off the Santa Barbara County coast.
“We can see a spill any day as long as there is drilling off shore,” Claassen said.
Robert Hernandez, an electrician who fishes almost every day off the Goleta pier, said oil layers like the one spotted Wednesday are part of life in the area, where the petroleum-rich sea bed regularly emits oil and natural gas. Hernandez questioned why the oil that appeared Wednesday was newsworthy.
“It cracks me up,” Hernandez said. “At first I thought there was a shark attack or something.”