The U.S. Coast Guard, California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response and Orange County Sheriff’s Department respond to an oil sheen offshore of Huntington Beach, California, on March 8, 2024.

The U.S. Coast Guard, California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response and Orange County Sheriff’s Department respond to an oil sheen offshore of Huntington Beach, California, on March 8, 2024. (U.S. Coast Guard)

An oil sheen discovered off the coast of Huntington Beach on Thursday night dredged up memories of a significant oil spill less than three years ago.

The U.S. Coast Guard received reports at about 6 :50 p.m. Thursday of an unknown substance in the water 1.5 miles off the coast of Huntington Beach. Coast Guard pollution responders worked through the night with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife ‘s Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR ), Huntington Beach lifeguards and the Orange County Sheriff ‘s Department.

Early Friday morning, Coast Guard Pollution Responders investigated the situation with a Newport Harbor patrol boat and a Coast Guard helicopter. The oil sheen discovered was 2.5 miles in length and half a mile wide, nearly 3 miles off Huntington Beach near oil platforms Emmy and Eva.

A Unified Command team — consisting of the U.S. Coast Guard, OSPR and the O.C. Sheriff ‘s Department — has been formed to investigate. Coast Guard officials said that no offshore oil platform has reported a spill, and the cause of the sheen was unknown as of Friday afternoon.

Advertisement The total volume of oil in the ocean was also unknown, Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley said at a news conference Friday afternoon at Huntington Dog Beach. The Coast Guard deployed two skimmers and a barge to contain the area to clean up, she said.

“We don ‘t want to have a situation like we had in October of 2021, where we had to close our beaches, which impacted our businesses, residents, tourism, “ Foley said. “I think this time, everybody ‘s at the ready, communicating and coordinating.”

Though no Surf City beaches were closed Friday, mariners received an alert to stay away.

Visitors to the dog beach reported seeing tar balls washed on shore, and Foley recommended they be avoided.

“For one, it ‘s very sticky and it ‘s hard to get off your clothes or skin, “ she said. “It ‘s also not healthy to be in contact with in general. I remember when I was a girl in Santa Barbara, I would get the baby oil out and wipe it off my feet when I went to the beach there. So, we ‘re kind of used to that in California, unfortunately.”

Costa Mesa resident Kent Adams noticed a Frisbee- sized circle of oil as he approached the dog beach ‘s southern entrance.

“You rarely see that, “ Adams said. “I usually stay away from the beach if I know about them because I don ‘t want it all over [my dog ].”

Carly Hill, who lives in Irvine, was at the dog beach with a friend and a golden retriever puppy, Nala, late Friday morning. They tried to clean oil from Nala ‘s hind legs as she splashed in the sand.

“We ‘ve been stuck inside because of the rain, “ Hill said. “She loves the ocean and the sand... the ocean is like our livelihood and it ‘s so sad that we destroy it or hurt it, intentionally. We were talking about that with the rain though, too, all of the drains leading to the ocean. It ‘s super unfortunate.”

An oil spill off the coast of Huntington Beach in October 2021 dumped more than 25, 000 gallons of crude oil into the water, causing the cancellation of the third day of that year ‘s Pacific Airshow. Amplify Energy owned that affected oil rig and ended up paying millions of dollars in settlements and fines.

“At this time, we have no indication that this sheen is related to our operations, “ Amplify officials said in a statement Friday regarding the most recent sheen spotted. “We will continue to cooperate with the U.S. Coast Guard and other relevant authorities and provide support in any way we can.”

The Coast Guard has hired an oil spill response organization to conduct offshore oil collection and is working to identify possible impacts to the shoreline and environmental protection strategies. No oiled wildlife had been observed as of Friday afternoon.

Those who see affected animals are asked not to approach them, but to call the Oiled Wildlife Care Network at (877 ) 823- 6926.

Environmental organization US Ecology was contracted to help with the beach cleanup effort, Coast Guard representative Richard Uranga said, and was planning a 60- person cleanup at Bolsa Chica State Beach at first light on Saturday. Bolsa Chica has limited access, and there is no call for volunteers, he added.

Huntington Beach Mayor Gracey Van Der Mark said the city was deferring to the Coast Guard and waiting for details like everyone else. She said she took Pacific Coast Highway to come to the office and noticed people enjoying the beaches.

“It just looks like a regular day in Huntington Beach so far... [but ] we ‘re taking it seriously, “ she said.

The sheen is not believed to pose a threat to neighboring Newport Beach, spokesman John Pope said in an email Friday. However, Newport Beach police and lifeguard personnel are deployed on vessels and monitoring the shoreline.

State Sen. Dave Min (D- Irvine ) was the author of SB 559, which called for the immediate shutdown of offshore drilling. The bill was killed in the Senate ‘s Appropriations Committee earlier this year.

“While we are still awaiting further details, I just want to emphasize that the offshore oil platforms off the coast of California are ticking time bombs, “ said Min, whose district includes Newport Beach, Laguna Beach and part of Huntington Beach, in a statement Friday. “They were built in the 1960s and 1970s, and are long past their expected lifetimes... There will be more oil spills unless and until these operations are shut down.”

(c)2024 the Daily Pilot (Costa Mesa, Calif.)

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