Emily Henderson
Copy Editor

On Saturday, Oct. 2,  an extensive oil spill from the Amplify Energy Corp.-owned oil platform “Elly” struck the Huntington Beach coastline, causing large-scale damage to the wildlife and communities in the area. Authorities are unsure whether the spill was “the result of a small leak or a ruptured pipeline.” 

Over 126,000 gallons of oil have spilled from the pipe, stretching over 5.8 nautical miles from Huntington Beach to Newport Beach. This vast distance means the oil will hit many important ecological preserves along the coast, which hold many species of wildlife that are essential to the ecosystem of Southern California. One of the main areas being affected is Talbert Marsh in Huntington Beach, “a 25-acre ecological reserve in Huntington Beach that is home to dozens of species of birds.”

When oil sticks on birds, it destroys the “water repellency of a bird’s feathers, thus exposing these creatures to the harsh elements.” This can lead to death from hypothermia, due to not having the insulating factors that were stripped away from the oil. Also, many birds and animals also ingest oil when they try to clean themselves, which can poison them.” However, birds are not the only creatures affected by oil spills; many kinds of fish are currently subjected to reduced growth, enlarged livers, changes in heart and respiration rates, fin erosion, and reproduction impairment.” The ecological impacts affect humans as well, by making fish and other sea creatures harmful for consumption. If you see any hurt wildlife, officials advise you to stay away and contact the UC Davis Oiled Wildlife Care Network at 877.823.6926 for assistance.

Photo Courtesy of Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Many procedures are being put in place to stop the growth of the oil spill. Over 2,050 feet of booms (floating barriers) have been installed along the coast in order to “try to stop further incursion and protect other sensitive wildlife areas including Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve.” Officials have all instated “large sand berms near Talbert Marsh to keep ocean water and oil from continuing to flow into the habitat.” For animals such as sea lions and seals, “Pacific marine mammal center will be doing intake and triage.” Bigger creatures of the ocean (whales, dolphins, etc.), will be transported to SeaWorld San Diego, if necessary. These protective measures are meant to protect the wildlife from any further ecological harm.

Orange County Rep. Michelle Steel has requested “a major disaster declaration for Orange County, which would make additional federal assistance available for state and local agencies and individuals impacted by the spill.” This will allow for more help with individual assistance, including the Crisis Counseling Program and the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; public assistance programs like debris removal, water control facilities restoration, and utilities repair; and Hazard Mitigation Assistance, which will deploy resources in order to prevent future risks to property and life from occurring. Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley stated that the pipe that the spill has come from is still under restoration and “divers were still working to repair it early Sunday.” In the meantime, officials have advised the community to not go near the beach. To enforce this, the city will “close the ocean from the Pier all the way down to the Santa Ana River jetty.” Orange County officials have also put out a notice that anyone who has come in contact with any contamination involving the oil spill to contact medical attention immediately. Dr. Clayton Chau of the Orange County Health Care Agency (HCA) stated that “the effects of oil spills on humans may be direct and indirect,

depending on the type of contact with the oil spill.” If someone is contaminated, they may experience skin, eye, nose and throat irritation; headache or vomiting.

The oil spill has caused harm not only to the wildlife of Huntington Beach, but also to the city itself. The weekend of the spill coincided with the annual “Pacific Airshow;” this three-day event boasts that they are the largest airshow in the United States by attendance,” attracting millions of people to the Southern California coast every autumn. The event consists of music, food, a boat race, and the three-day airshow, featuring the world’s best military & civilian display teams.” The event brings in an expanse of tourism and economic gain for Huntington Beach, generating about “$68.1 million in spending and $3.4 million in additional tourism-related revenue.” Because of the nearby oil spill, the third and last day of the event had to be cancelled. This — alongside with public disapproval — will cause the city to not gain the expected income from the event, especially the tourism that it brings.

Oil spills are a devastating expantance from said oil and gas industry. These events can cause intense harm not only to the public, but also to wildlife both in and out of the ocean. The city of Huntington Beach is feeling the effects that an ecological disaster like this can cause, and will feel it for years to come. You can visit www.socalspillresponse.com for more information as it comes in.

Featured Image: Courtesy of Mario Tama/Getty Image

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In collaboration by Quaker Campus staff members.

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