From the Bay Area to Santa Barbara and Huntington Beach

The California Coastal Commission is recording these major oil spills that caused environmental damage from southern California to the San Francisco Bay Area.

A pipeline leak in waters off Orange County that began on Saturday, October 2, 2021 spilled at least 126,000 gallons, fouling beaches and killing wildlife at the Huntington Beach Pier in Newport Beach.

Here is a brief history of the California Large Oil Spill Commission, along with information on the environmental damage a spill can cause:

  • In 1969, a blowout from a Union Oil drilling rig off the coast of Santa Barbara resulted in a spill of 4.2 million gallons of crude oil into the ocean and neighboring coasts. This disaster is seen as a catalyst for the modern environmental movement.
  • In 1971, 800,000 gallons of bunker fuel spilled into San Francisco Bay, with devastating impact on local species.
  • At Huntington Beach in 1990, the US tanker Trader spilled more than 416,000 gallons of crude oil, killing approximately 3,400 birds.
  • In 2007, a container ship struck the Bay Bridge and dumped 58,000 gallons of bunker fuel in San Francisco Bay.
  • On May 19, 2015, an oil pipeline released 100,000 gallons into the ocean at Refugio State Beach in Santa Barbara County.

And here’s the commission’s explanation of why an oil spill can be so devastating to birds and other wildlife, and make seafood unfit for human consumption.

“Oil in water can be fatal to animals. The oil is poisonous when ingested. When birds have oil on their feathers, it interferes with the important waterproofing that is required to keep a bird warm. A bird can also lose its ability to float in water or to fly if covered with oil. Oiled marine mammals can suffer from hypothermia. The oil can cause reproductive problems and genetic abnormalities in fish. Contaminants can enter the food chain and produce seafood that is unfit for consumption.

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