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The tear in the pipeline that caused the oil slick polluting the beaches of Huntington Beach, Calif., Was allegedly caused by a ship’s anchor, local media reported Tuesday. Many cargo ships and container ships are in fact parked offshore before docking in the ports of Los Angeles or Long Beach. The leak could reach half a million crude oil.
The Coast Guard is seeking to determine whether the oil spill threatening California beaches could have been caused by the anchor of a ship that pierced an oil pipeline, local media reported Tuesday (October 5).
In total, 24 km of coastline between Huntington Beach and Laguna Beach, famous beaches in southern Los Angeles known as much for their surfers as for their dolphins, have been closed to the public.
Fishing has also been banned due to the leak reported over the weekend from a nearby pipeline, which could reach 500,000 liters of crude oil.
The pipeline moved and torn
Underwater inspections revealed that a large segment of the pipeline had been moved and detected a tear of about three inches in the pipe. “We pulled on the pipeline like a bowstring,” Martyn Willsher, boss of Amplify Energy, the Texas company operating the pipeline and neighboring oil platforms, said at a press conference.
According to him, some 1,200 meters of pipes were thus moved, “up to about thirty meters” at the most pronounced deformation point, where the origin of the leak was located.
Amplify Energy’s facilities in the area are shut down and divers can see that nothing is leaking from the damaged pipeline.
Martyn Willsher declined to speculate on the cause of the damage or comment on the possibility that it was the anchor of a freighter. “It is a 40 cm (diameter) steel pipeline covered with 2.5 cm (thick) of concrete. It is not every day that it moves thirty meters”, a- he however launched to journalists.
The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are among the busiest in the world. Like other infrastructures of this type, they are facing significant delays, further reinforced by the Covid-19 health crisis, and many cargo ships and container ships are forced to wait at sea before being able to dock.
These ships are assigned anchor points away from pipelines and other underwater equipment.
An environmental disaster
Relief has mobilized fourteen specialized ships that have been busy recovering as much oil as possible since Sunday. Some 18,000 liters had been extracted from the sea on Tuesday morning.
“Our number one priority remains human health and the protection of the environment and wildlife, as well as finding and recovering oil,” said Rebecca Ore, captain of the California Coast Guard.
She pointed out that the exact amount of crude that escaped from the facility was not known, but could not exceed 500,000 liters.
Martyn Willsher, pledged to “do whatever is necessary” to repair the impact of the oil spill, which could be partially contained by floating dams deployed by the rescue.
At least eight seabirds stuck in oil have been collected, but some protected reserves along the coast have been polluted and the toll could increase.
According to experts, it is still too early to assess the damage, because the consequences on the environment will not be felt for several days or even weeks.
The leak at the origin of the oil spill occurred near the Elly platform, built in 1980 to process crude extracted from dozens of neighboring wells.
A total of 23 oil and gas platforms are installed in federal waters in Southern California.
The disaster revived the debate on the presence of these oil platforms only a few kilometers from the coast of southern California.
The State of California and many municipalities have tried to oppose by all means the projects of offshore oil extraction since the trauma of the Santa Barbara oil spill in 1969, with its oiled beaches and the daily images of dolphins, otters and dead pelicans stuck in an oil straitjacket.
California has not granted an offshore license since then, but its jurisdiction ends about 3 miles from the coast, where the federal state takes over.