In the News
This week brought news of an oil spill in Santa Barbara that released more than 100,000 gallons on coastal lands and into the ocean. The spill began on Tuesday May 19, 2015 when an underground, onshore pipeline ruptured resulting in the release. According to CNN the pipeline was carrying 1,300 barrels an hour which is below its maximum capacity of 2,000 barrels an hour. The cleanup could take months and has closed two state beaches this week. Oil spills can devastate marine life, the current spill has killed lobsters, kelp bass, and marine invertebrates, six pelicans and one young sea lion are being rehabilitated. The pipeline is owned and operated by Plains All American Pipeline.
The Santa Barbara oil spill in January 1969 resulted in 4.2 million gallons of crude oil and took 11 days to cap. A series of undersea faults opened up as a result of the blowout from Platform “A”, continuing to release oil and gas until December 1969. Oil from Platform "A" was found as far north as Pismo Beach and as far south as Mexico.
Did you know?
• The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was created as a direct result of the 1969 Santa Barbara Oil Spill. It also led to the start of the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Marine Sanctuaries system.
• According to NOAA, the oil spill of 1969 was the first time a CIA spy plane had ever been used for non-defense related aerial photography. While classified information at the time, the CIA and the U.S. Geological Survey were actually partnering to use a Cold War spy plane to take aerial photos of the Santa Barbara spill (they used a U-2 plane because they could get the images more quickly than from the passing CORONA spy satellite). But that information wasn't declassified until the 1990s.
• The same Platform "A" leaked 1,130 gallons of crude oil into Santa Barbara Channel in 2008.
· The US Coast Guard is responsible for oil spill remediation efforts.
Response to Oil Spills
Oil spills have the most devastating environmental impact when deposited along coastlines; if the spill occurs offshore the oil dissipates, being degraded by marine bacteria. The US EPA gives methods used in oil spill emergency management.
Mechanical containment or recovery is the primary line of defense to keep spilled oil from washing up on shorelines. This method includes use of booms, barriers, skimmers, natural or synthetic sorbent materials. This method seeks to capture and store the spilled oil for proper disposal.
Chemical and biological methods are often used in combination with mechanical containment. Chemical methods include use of dispersing agents and gelling agents to prevent oil from reaching shorelines. Biological agents can degrade oil that has washed up on shorelines.
Physical methods are used to clean up shorelines and beaches. These include wiping with sorbent materials, pressure washing, raking and bulldozing. These methods speed up natural processes of evaporation, oxidation, and bio-degradation.
Scare tactics employ propane scare-cans, floating dummies, and helium-filled balloons. These devices are used to keep birds and other animals away from oil spill impacted areas.