California oil spill was likely about 25,000 gallons, Coast Guard officials said Thursday

The oil spill that closed Orange County beaches earlier this month was likely around 25,000 gallons, on the low end of early estimates, U.S Coast Guard officials said Thursday.

That’s a much less damaging scenario than earlier worst-case estimates of 131,000 gallons on more. Along with the fact that there’s no longer a large oil plume floating offshore, it suggests the county’s coastline has come through the worst of the damage the spill could inflict.

However, state and federal officials overseeing the cleanup are at the beginning of sampling fish and other marine life to determine when it’s safe to reopen fisheries – and it could be two to four weeks before that decision is made, said Fish and Wildlife Lt. Christian Corbo, the state’s on-scene coordinator for the spill response.

On Wednesday, the response team started collecting samples that will be tested for chemicals found in crude oil. Corbo said smaller bait fish that swim near the shore, such as topsmelt and anchovies, are tested first, and scientists work their way offshore to bigger species such as rockfish and bass.

While there’s not a final determination on the amount of oil spilled, U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Rebecca Ore said officials expect it to be much closer to the low end of the range they reported earlier.

“We have a high degree of confidence that the spill amount is approximately 588 barrels,” Ore said. That equals about 24,696 gallons.

The spill occurred around Oct. 1, according to calls and other reports to regulators, and it came from a damaged pipeline connected to an oil platform off the coast of Huntington Beach. Several separate investigations into exactly when and how the spill happened and who should be held accountable are underway, but may take months or years.

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Since the spill, a team of more than 1,000 state and federal spill cleanup experts have converged in Orange County, but for some of the them the job is likely coming to an end.

Tar balls are still washing ashore and workers continue to comb the sand for them, but the floating oil plume has broken up and dispersed, and the most recently spotted tar balls are much smaller than in the days immediately after the spill, said Roy Kim, an environmental …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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