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Massive oil spill off California kills wildlife as it reaches shoreline


A 13-square-mile oil spill off the coast of Southern California forced officials to close beaches and warn of “substantial ecological impacts” as cleanup crews worked Sunday to avert a potential environmental disaster.

An offshore oil pipeline that was being investigated as the potential source for the 126,000-gallon leak off Newport Beach has been shut down and suctioned, said Martyn Willsher, chief executive of Amplify Energy, which owns the company that operates the pipeline.

Even so, plenty of damage may already have been done, local officials said.

“We’ve started to find dead birds & fish washing up on the shore,” Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley tweeted.

Yet only one animal was officially confirmed to have been injured in the spill, a duck found covered in oil, said a spokesman for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Other reports of dead and injured wildlife were being investigated, he said.

Foley said she visited the area Sunday and felt the sting of vapor in the air.

“My throat hurt,” she said at a news conference.

Foley described seeing small clusters of oil along the shoreline that she compared to egg yolk. She pleaded with residents to stay away from the area and not disturb the clusters.

County health officials warned residents to be aware of dizziness, headaches and other side effects that exposure to an oil spill can cause. Some sections of the coastline in nearby Huntington Beach were closed Sunday, and the city said in a statement that the spill had”substantial ecological impacts” on the shoreline and wetlands.

The city had to cancel the final day of its Pacific Airshow because of the cleanup operation, and skimming equipment and booms were deployed to prevent the flow of oil into ecologically sensitive areas, it said in a statement.

Willsher said the pipeline is connected to a processing platform 17.5 miles off the coast, and that divers were looking at a potential leak four miles from shore.

The platform is one of three in the area owned by Houston-based Amplify Energy, Willshir said. They were built in the 1970s and ‘80s and have been owned by the company for nine years, he said.

The pipeline is inspected every other year and has been “meticulously maintained,” he said. Its capacity is 126,000 gallons, and Willsher said he did not expect anymore leakage.

Skimming equipment and booms were deployed to prevent the flow of oil into ecologically sensitive areas, the city of Huntington Beach said in a statement.

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Describing the situation as a “potential ecologic disaster,” Huntington Beach Mayor Kim Carr told NBC Los Angeles that around 3,000 barrels of oil or 126,000 gallons had been spilled.

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