Thu. May 19th, 2022

Investigators are looking at shipping that goes back a year to help determine what caused the most recent oil spill in Southern California, officials said Friday.

The pipeline, which transports oil from platforms off Huntington Beach to Long Beach Harbor, shows signs of an aging anchorage attack and damage that has been present for so long that marine growth is present, said Captain Jason Neubauer, chairman of Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation.

Part of the pipeline’s concrete shell has been knocked off and exposed the steel pipeline, he said at a press conference. Growth in the area indicates they have nothing to do with a new strike, he said.

“This event may be several incidents and strikes in the pipeline” after an “initial event, we are pretty sure that happened several months to a year ago,” Neubauer said.

The pipeline operator, Beta Offshore, a subsidiary of Amplify Energy Corp., said the leak began Saturday and an investigation it conducted in October 2020 indicated the pipeline was in good shape.

Neubauer said investigators will look at a stormy end to January in which a ship could have inadvertently pulled an anchor. They will also review possible “geological events” as factors, he said.

A rupture in the pipeline does not appear to be the result of a direct anchor attack, Neubauer said, adding that one or more anchors pulling on the pipeline could have indirectly caused the rupture.

The pipeline moved no more than 105 feet and the crack is 13 inches, Neubauer said.

“It is certainly possible that the anchor would break the rigid concrete house away and the pipe itself would bend,” he said.

The focus remained on shipping traffic en route to the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, he said.

“I’m convinced … the first event that diverted the tube itself was an anchor attack,” Neubuaer said.

The pipeline leaked an estimated 144,000 gallons of crude oil into the Pacific Ocean, causing the first coastal and fishing closure from Huntington Beach south to the San Diego County line.

Coastal cleaning teams combed Orange County beaches Friday, and crews are monitoring southern beaches as ocean currents moved in that direction, according to the joint spill response command.

A total of 35 oiled animals, including 10 dead, have been recovered so far, according to a report on wildlife with oil spills updated by researchers from the University of California, Davis.

Govin Newsom declared a state of emergency for Orange County.

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