Beach Officials, Declares Huntington Beach Oil Spill a State of Emergency

Sofia Bello, Staff Writer

A tragic oil spill off the coast of Southern California has left marine wildlife in danger and resulted in the closure of many beaches. 

With 144,000 gallons of crude oil spilled, and 23 miles of coastline shut down, it is one of the largest spills in recent California history. Huntington Beach is the only city, so far, in the county to declare a state of emergency during the coronavirus pandemic.  The spill occurred from a ship anchor tearing a 13-inch gash in a pipeline, operated by Beta Offshore. At 2:30 am on October 2, the Beta Offshore’s control personnel received a low-pressure alarm on the pipeline showing a possible failure. About 6 hours later, Beta Offshore reported the accident to the National Response Center, indicating that crude oil had been spilled near its pipeline. Risking the life of fish and other wildlife, as well as contaminating fragile wetlands, crews are racing to clean up this ecological disaster. 

Most days of the week, Huntington beach named “Surf City” is full of surfers catching waves and local residents enjoying the sun. Because of the amount of oil spilled, the beaches might be closed for months, leaving communities devastated.

Scientifically, oil spills can lead to negative effects on the environment. They disturb the salinity/pH levels in the environment, and pollute the water and air, killing thousands of different species and leading to a vast majority of closed waters. In addition, oil is a thick substance, so it sticks to everything it touches, causing many animals and plants to get trapped in it. Being covered in the oil can cause many problems, from hypothermia to poisoning. 

By the time it comes to the beaches it’s done tremendous damage

— Garry Brown

During oil spills, birds may endure much of the aftermath, as millions of them migrate through California every fall on their way south. This may severely impact and threaten several avian species because their homes are the marshes. 

“A big concern is what’s going to happen to them,” John Villa, the executive director of Huntington Beach Wetlands Conservancy said. If more spills happen and not enough birds are saved, who knows they could eventually become endangered or extinct. “Oil-covered birds are a universal symbol of environmental damage wreaked by oil spills,” wrote Larry West. Oil spills not only can affect birds, but they harm the aquatic environment around them. From fish, sea otters, to corals, if they all come into close contact with the oil it can be lethal. 

Since spilled oil starts to evaporate when it reaches the surface of water, the air above it gets polluted with various chemicals and becomes toxic. Civilians could be breathing polluted air and drinking polluted water. Residents of the Surf City are worried and questioning whether authorities reacted too late. “By the time it comes to the beaches it’s done tremendous damage,” said Garry Brown, president of the environmental group Orange County Coastkeeper. 

As a result, the Huntington Beach Oil Spill may not only leave a huge impact on only the environment, but for communities and future generations to come.