LONG BEACH (CBSLA) — A section of oil pipeline was confirmed to have been damaged and moved more than 100 feet along the ocean floor, another indication that a ship's anchor may have caused the oil spill in Huntington Beach.
Federal and state officials overseeing the response to the oil spill, which has since grown to 144,000 gallons, say reports from contract divers and remotely-operated vehicles found a 4,000-foot section of the 17.7-mile-long pipeline was dragged laterally about 105 feet, and had a 13-inch split along the length of the pipe. U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Rebecca Ore said the split is the likely source of release of oil.
"If you can picture the pipeline essentially vertically, the pipeline has essentially been pulled like a bowstring, so at its widest point is 105 feet away from where it was," Amplify Energy CEO Martyn Willsher said. "So it is kind of in a, almost a semi-circle."
However, the U.S. Coast Guard says they have no reports at this time of a vessel that was above the pipeline around the time of the leak. And while divers and ROV's have found the split, Ore said oil does not appear to be coming from that section of pipeline at this time.
Since the oil spill was first reported Saturday from Elly, an Amplify Energy-owned rig off the coast of California, Orange County beaches have been shut down from Huntington Beach to Dana Point. Harbors in Newport Beach and Laguna Beach have also been closed to all boat traffic.
The pipeline runs 18 miles from Amplify Energy's offshore drilling platforms to a pump station in Long Beach.
TIMELINE: Huntington Beach Oil Spill
Unified Command -- made up of representatives from the U.S. Coast Guard, the state's Department of Fish & Wildlife's Office Of Spill Prevention, and Amplify Energy – acknowledged that the first reports of the spill came in Friday night, but said that such reports are common and often is from the natural seepage of oil or sheen that is never located. But satellite imagery from NOAA prompted another report overnight.
The Department of Fish & Wildlife's Office of Spill Prevention and Response went out to search for the spill before sunrise, but were forced back to shore due to foggy conditions. Once the fog lifted, the Coast Guard and Orange County Sheriff's Department flew out to the reported leak location to investigate.
"That is when a full-scale mobilization effort began, because we received a [National Response Center] report submitted by the responsible party, and the responsible party's report indicated release of pressure from the pipeline," Ore said.
As of Tuesday, 4,788 gallons of crude oil have been recovered and oiling was reported on an estimated 15.67 miles of shoreline. Six miles of shoreline have been cleaned, and clean-up efforts continue. Officials say 11,360 feet of containment boom have been deployed, and 328 personnel are on the scene.
A total of eight oiled wildlife have been recovered.
The cause of the oil leak remains under investigation.
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