HUNTINGTON BEACH (CBSLA) — An oil sheen about the size of a football field was discovered Wednesday off the coastline of Huntington Beach.
Huntington Beach police confirmed Thursday morning that the oil sheen was found about two miles off of Bolsa Chica State Beach. The sheen is 150-yards long and 20 yards wide. The closest land point is where Warner Avenue meets the coastline.
U.S. Coast Guard investigators could not yet confirm if the sheen is from the October oil spill, or another source. It’s also unclear if it may have been triggered by Tuesday’s massive rain storm.
It may also be linked to a leak discovered in an oil pipeline, Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley said.
“We know that teams went out to investigate the smell and there was a glassy sheen on the water,” Foley said Thursday. “We know that there was a pin-sized hole leak in the pipeline. We don’t know who the operator is of the pipeline. And we don’t know what the source of the leak is from.”
Police said only one oil sheen was found during Thursday morning’s search between Bolsa Chica State Beach and the Talbert Marsh. On Wednesday night, police had reported two possible sheens.
“Last time (the October oil spill), there were like patties, like thick, a couple inches thick, and I just saw one little patch of sheen,” one surfer told CBSLA as he was coming out of the water Thursday.
“You could smell it, it’s probably from all the rain, lifted the oil out of the sand,” he added.
The situation began at approximately 7 p.m. Wednesday, when authorities began receiving reports from residents of an odor of oil, followed by reports of an oil sheen in the water, according to Huntington Beach police spokesperson Jennifer Carey.
A little before 7:30 p.m., the Coast Guard reported there was an oil sheen about a half-mile offshore of Bosla Chica State Beach.
At around 10 p.m., police put a helicopter in the air, but because of the weather and darkness, it was unable to find the sheen. Police also sent boats into the water and discovered what they thought were two oil sheens, each about the size of a football field.
Police sent the chopper back up again Thursday morning, which then located the sheen two miles offshore.
“There has been one other incident recently when an oil sheen was detected off the coast,” Carey said Wednesday. “It turned out to be a fairly minor incident that dissipated on its own. We are hoping that, if there is an instance of oil off our coast, it’s a similar circumstance, and fairly mild. We do know that with the recent storms and rain, that can kind of agitate things out in the ocean, and maybe that is what brought this about.”
On Wednesday night, the Coast Guard began deploying booms and building up sand berms near the vulnerable Bolsa Chica and Huntington Beach wetlands and inlet channels as preventative measures to keep the oil out of environmental spaces, police said.
“I’m very concerned with the wildfire and the damage that another oil spill could cause,” Jennifer Thomas, president of the Bolsa Chica Land Trust, told CBSLA Thursday. The trust works to preserve native plants along the shoreline.
The sheen was discovered on the same day that three companies were federally charged in connection with the October oil spill which sent about 25,000 gallons of crude oil into the ocean waters off the coast of Huntington Beach.
On the morning of Oct. 2, a rupture was reported to a pipeline owned by Amplify Energy in federal waters at the Elly oil-rig platform, about 4 1/2 miles offshore of Huntington Beach. The nearly 18-mile pipeline runs from Amplify’s offshore drilling platforms to a pump station in Long Beach.
Authorities initially estimated that as much as 144,000 gallons of oil may have leaked from the damaged pipeline, but officials later said the actual amount is likely much lower, likely around 25,000 gallons, although there is no firm number.
The pipeline leak has heightened awareness about the risks of backed up, loaded container ships waiting offshore. Longtime Huntington Beach resident Ted Weber said the recent crackdown on parked containers reduced ship numbers greatly. He says the dozen or so left disappeared Tuesday, right before the storm.
“I guess they went out further to sea because of the wind and the storm,” Weber said Thursday.
The Coast Guard and @CalSpillWatch are responding to a report of a sheen approximately a half-mile offshore near Bolsa Chica State Beach. At this time, the source has not been determined. An overflight is scheduled for first light. More info will be distributed as available.
— USCG Southern California (@USCGSoCal) December 16, 2021