Volunteers Chased Away from Oil Spill in Santa Barbara

Oil Spill (Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)
Jae C. Hong / Associated Press

On Thursday, volunteers who had joined professional environmental cleanup contractors to remove the detritus from a Wednesday oil spill that washed up on Refugio State Beach were asked to go home and leave the job to the experts.

State and federal fish and wildlife officials acknowledged that the volunteers meant well, but said that their efforts actually impeded the work of the experts, as the volunteers wound up spreading the thick oil around and getting sick from their efforts, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

The oil spill in the ocean totaled 105,000 gallons of crude oil; roughly 21,000 gallons reached the seashore. By Thursday, over 8,358 gallons of oil and water had been dealt with across 9 miles of the coast. The spill was triggered by a rupture in a 24-inch pipeline owned by Plains All American Pipeline LLC, which transported the oil from a storage facility to Southern California refineries.

The tide came in Wednesday afternoon, which left oil at the bottom of the cliffs ranging from Refugio beach to El Capitan State Beach a few miles south. When the tide rolled out, the crude oil stuck to the seashore.

Rick McMichael, speaking for the pipeline company, said that the onshore pipeline that burst was operating “well below its maximum operating capacity” when the accident happened. He said it was transporting 1,300 barrels an hour, less than its maximum capacity of 2,000 barrels an hour, according to CNN.

On Wednesday, Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in response to the oil spill. The declaration will allow emergency state funding and resources to be used. Almost 350 federal, state and local first responders have been involved in the oil clean-up, including workers from Plains All American Pipeline, the U.S. Coast Guard, California’s Office of Emergency Services, and the EPA.

Five pelicans and a young sea lion were being treated after having been found covered with oil.