The Coast Guard is seeking to determine whether the oil spill threatening California’s beaches could have been caused by the anchor of a ship that passed through a pipeline, local media reported Tuesday.
In total, 24 km of coastline between Huntington Beach and Laguna Beach, famous South Los Angeles beaches also known for their dolphins, seals and other marine life, have been closed to the public.
Fishing has also been banned due to a reported leak over the weekend from a nearby pipeline, which could reach up to 480,000 liters of crude.
The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are among the busiest in the world. Like other such infrastructures, they face significant delays, further reinforced by the Covid-19 health crisis, and many freighters and container ships are forced to wait at sea before they can dock.
These ships are assigned anchor points away from pipelines and other underwater equipment.
But an anchor thrown in the wrong place could drag the pipeline about 50 feet, causing the leak, according to a source close to the oil spill investigation cited by the Los Angeles Times.
The relief has mobilized fourteen specialized ships that have been busy recovering as much oil as possible since Sunday. Just over 15,000 liters had been drawn from the sea on Monday night.
“We have many professionals working around the clock to clean up this oil spill and keep the public and the environment safe,” said Rebecca Ore, captain of the California Coast Guard.
The Texas company Amplify Energy, which operates the pipeline through its Beta Offshore subsidiary, sent a remote control vehicle to verify its installation and was to send a team of divers after identifying the probable source of the leak.
Its CEO, Martyn Willsher, promised to “do whatever it takes” to repair the impact of the oil spill, which could be partially contained by floating barriers deployed by the rescue.
Four seabirds trapped in the oil had been collected on Monday, but some protected reserves along the coast were contaminated.
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 source of the oil spill occurred near the Elly platform, built in 1980 to process crude from dozens of neighboring wells.
A total of 23 oil and gas platforms are installed in federal waters in Southern California.