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Photo Credit: Zack Warburg

About 10,000 gallons of oily water have been scooped out of the ocean in Santa Barbara County, following the massive oil spill that dumped 100,000 gallons of crude into the Pacific on May 19.

The largest oil spill since 1969 has closed two popular state beaches – Refugio State Beach and El Capitan State Beach. Both are situated about 20 miles west of Santa Barbara.


The Oil Spill’s Effects

Caused by a ruptured 24-inch diameter pipe, the spill has affected 9.5-square-miles of ocean and 8.7 miles of coastline from Arroyo Hondo Beach to Refugio State Beach, a favored family camping beach near Goleta. Camping reservations have been canceled through June 4, 2015 in order to expedite clean-up efforts. Campers with reservations during this time will be provided a full refund through Reserve America.


In addition to the blackened beaches, three brown pelicans have died and about half a dozen brown pelicans, sea lions and an elephant seal are being rehabilitated.

The federal government on Friday ordered the firm, Plains All American Pipeline (which has had 175 federal safety and maintenance violations since 2006) to suspend operations and make safety improvements on the ruptured pipe.


At this time, the public’s help is not being requested, according to the State and Federal Fish and Wildlife officials. The public can best assist by reporting oiled wildlife by calling 877-UCD-OWCN (877-823-6926).

Open Beaches

Haskell’s and Ellwood Beaches are open and being monitored. Visitors to the city of Santa Barbara will still find plenty of clean beaches (including pristine Butterfly Beach) and attractions to enjoy. Channel Islands National Park, located about 50 miles from the oil spill, has not been affected. Boating, kayaking and other excursions to the islands are still operating.


While crews from Patriot Environmental Services are collecting oil-covered seaweed and sand, Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health air monitors are taking readings at the site. Over the longer term, chemical dispersants and bioremediation agents might be used.