Second major California beach to reopen after May oil spill

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 10, 2015 5:12 PM

By Dan Whitcomb

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The second of two major California beaches that were closed after a ruptured pipeline spewed some 2,400 barrels of crude oil will be reopened next week, state parks officials said on Friday.

Refugio State Beach, about 20 miles (32 km) west of Santa Barbara, was closed along with nearby El Capitan State Beach after they were fouled when an underground pipeline that runs along the coastal highway burst on May 19.

"We're obviously excited to get the park open again," said Eric Hjelstrom, California's state park superintendent. El Capitan State Beach was reopened on June 26.

Hjelstrom said officials had completed a site assessment of Refugio State Beach and had determined that it was safe for members of the public to use again.

Following the spill, federal inspectors determined that the section of pipeline owned by Texas-based Plains All American Pipeline that ruptured had been badly corroded and was degraded to 1/16th of an inch (1.6 mm).

The spill dumped as much as 2,400 barrels (101,000 gallons or 382,000 liters) of crude onto a pristine stretch of the Santa Barbara coastline and into the Pacific, leaving slicks that stretched over nine miles (14 km) along the coast and closing the two state beaches.

The spill zone lies at the edge of a national marine sanctuary and state-designated underwater preserve teeming with whales, dolphins, sea lions, some 60 species of sea birds and more than 500 species of fish.

The surrounding waters are shared by nearly two dozen offshore oil platforms.

Nearly 250 petroleum-stained sea birds have been recovered dead and alive since the spill, along with over 260 marine mammals suspected of being spill casualties, according to a running tally kept by wildlife officials.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Eric Beech)