Cleanup crews labored for a third day on Thursday to remove patches of crude petroleum that stained a Santa Barbara beach and fouled offshore waters from a pipeline rupture that may rank as the largest oil spill to hit the Santa Barbara coastline in over four decades.
Working all hours of the day, about 300 people on the beach were scooping up globs of oil from sand and raking tar balls. Crews will also scrub soiled rocks and hose down contaminated areas, Coast Guard Captain Jennifer Williams told Reuters. Wildlife organizations such as SeaWorld have also stepped in to assist animals that were tarnished by the massive oil spill.
Nine cleanup vessels plied the ocean, six to corral the slick with brooms and three others skimming oil from the surface Thursday morning. Volunteers could be seen carrying buckets of oil from an oil slick along the coast of Refugio State Beach in Goleta, California.
Refugio State Beach and El Capitan State Beach, both popular destinations for seaside camping, were to remain closed to the public through the Memorial Day holiday weekend. The area will also remain closed to fishing and shellfish harvesting.
Tuesday’s rupture released as much as 2,500 barrels (105,000 gallons) of crude oil into the ocean, five times more than the initial estimate, according to a “worst-case scenario) presented by pipeline owners Plains All American Pipeline. It said up to a fifth of the spill had made its way into the ocean.
Plains Chief Executive Officer Greg Armstrong said control-room operators detected pipeline pressure irregularities Tuesday morning, and shut the line off in about 30 minutes.
The company said residual oil continued to drain even after the shutdown. The spill was discovered about an hour later, when people in the area noticed a petrochemical odor and alerted authorities, officials said.