LAGUNA BEACH (CBSLA) — In another promising sign of recovery, Laguna Beach has reopened its shoreline and water to the public Thursday.
Laguna Beach’s shoreline and water were back open for swimming and recreation just under two weeks after an oil spill off Huntington Beach left a light coating on Orange County’s beaches, oiled wildlife, and sent tar balls as far as San Diego. The reopening included county-operated Aliso Beach, Laguna Royale Beach, Table Rock Beach, Thousand Steps Beach, and West Street Beach.READ MORE: Pasadena Natural Gas Line Ruptured, Evacuations Underway
The beachside parking lot of Aliso Creek Beach also reopened Friday at 6 a.m., but the inland side parking lot will remain closed for cleanup crews.
The county says all its beaches, including city beaches, have fully reopened, except for Capistrano Beach and Poche Beach, which remain closed due to construction.
COMPLETE COVERAGE: Huntington Beach Oil Spill
READ MORE: One Person Dead, Firefighter Injured In Harvard Heights House Fire
The spill was initially feared to be a potential ecological disaster. But since it was first reported on Oct. 2, the volume of the oil spilled has been downgraded to about 25,000 gallons; wildlife that was found and cleaned have already been released back into the wild, and more beaches have reopened. Laguna Beach, however, is the first to reopen its water and shoreline.
The crude oil was determined to have leaked from an underground pipeline that was found with a 13-inch split along its length and moved more than 100 feet. Authorities are investigating if the damage was caused by a cargo ship’s anchor and when it may have happened.
But the damage has been done. Several events that were scheduled to take place in Huntington Beach had to be canceled, fisheries in the area were forced to close, and businesses up and down the coast suffered a loss of foot traffic due to people staying away. Several lawsuits have already been filed in connection with the oil spill.
An update Thursday from Orange County’s Health Care Agency said water and sediment samples haven’t indicated a public health concern for short-term exposures from use of the beaches. However, the public is still urged to not handle any tar balls or oil.
“Based on the recent results of our air and water quality samples, we ask that our residents and visitors exercise caution if you are resuming recreational activities at our beaches in order to limit the risk of contaminants being absorbed through the skin, inhalation, or ingestion,” county health officer and HCA Director Dr. Clayton Chau said in a statement.MORE NEWS: Riverside Teacher Placed On Leave After Video Surfaces Of Her Wearing Feather Headdress, Doing 'Tomahawk Chop'
However, even as beaches along the coast reopen, fishing and harvesting seafood from Orange County waters remains prohibited.