HUNTINGTON BEACH (CBSLA) – Despite receiving a warning that something was wrong, operators of an offshore oil rig appeared to wait more than three hours before shutting off a pipeline that leaked tens of thousands of gallons of oil into the ocean waters off the Orange County coastline over the weekend, according to a federal document obtained Tuesday.
The pipeline leak, which was reported Saturday morning, may have spilled up to 144,000 gallons of oil into the ocean waters. The spill occurred in federal waters at the Elly rig, about 4 1/2 miles off shore. The rig is owned by Amplify Energy.
Federal authorities confirmed Tuesday that a section of Amplify Energy’s oil pipeline was damaged and moved more than 100 feet along the ocean floor, an indication that a ship’s anchor may have caused the spill.
A document obtained by CBS2’s David Goldstein from the U.S. Department of Transportation indicates a low pressure alarm went off on the Elly at 2:30 a.m. Saturday.
However, workers in the control room of Beta Offshore, a subsidiary of Amplify, did not shut down the pipeline until 6:01 a.m., about 3 ½ hours later.
Amplify didn’t notify state and federal authorities until 9:07 a.m., the document states.
“We did not see the sheen at 2:30, like I said, first time we saw the sheen was at 8:09 a.m.,” Amplify Energy CEO Martyn Willsher told reporters Tuesday.
“If that’s true, then that’s pretty terrible for what’s going on, because that means there could have been less oil that would be leaking if they had turned it off sooner,” Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley said.
TIMELINE: Huntington Beach Oil Spill
There are also questions about when the authorities first were notified by the public about a possible spill.
According to a document from the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, the state was first notified of a possible leak at 8:22 p.m. Friday.
A person reported seeing an unknown sheen in the water. However, the U.S. Coast Guard did not send aircraft up until first light the following morning. Sources in the governor’s office say they should have moved quicker.