A rupture in an above-ground pipeline that sent roughly 10,000 gallons of crude oil spewing onto Atwater Village streets early Thursday appeared to have been caused by a valve failure, the pipeline company said.
The rupture sprayed black oil 20 feet into the air, splattering the roof and walls of a neighboring strip club, the Gentlemen's Club, and forcing the early-morning guests to be evacuated.
Firefighters said they discovered the 20-inch pipeline break at a Plains All American Pipeline pump station shortly after midnight Thursday in the 5100 block of West San Fernando Road.
Plains All American Pipeline, based in Texas, is investigating the cause of the rupture, but said in a statement that "early indications are that the top part of a valve … failed, allowing oil to escape in a spray."
The pipeline was shut off remotely as fire crews worked to contain the runoff, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department. It took about 45 minutes for the oil to stop flowing.
The roof and a wall of the strip club were covered in black oil and the business' silhouettes of women on an outside wall appeared ruined.
Oil went through the club's roof and into the ventilation system, and leaked to the floor, said Nosa Omoruyi, a hazardous materials specialist for Los Angeles County who was on scene.
Firefighters were able to contain much of the spill by using loads of sand from a nearby cement company to build a berm, creating a sort of lagoon of oil that tanker trucks were then able to vacuum up.
By the time crews were able to shut off the pipeline, the spill had created pools of oil, some about 40 feet wide and knee-deep, in the largely industrial area, according to the Fire Department.
"It looked like a lake," said LAFD Capt. Jaime Moore.
The oil that spilled was California-produced light crude, according to Plains All American. The Atwater Village pump station receives oil from a pipeline south of Bakersfield and routes it to various delivery points in the Los Angeles Basin, the company said.
The pipeline, on average, transports about 110,000 barrels of crude oil per day, the company said. As of Thursday, it appeared that fewer than 450 barrels of oil had been released, Plains All American said.
The company said it was unsure how long the pipeline would be shut down.
There was no indication that oil seeped into the nearby Los Angeles River, said Alexia Retallack, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife's Office of Spill Prevention and Response.
Storm drains in the area were not affected because firefighters quickly contained the oil, she said.
Had oil gotten into the river or storm drains, it would have rapidly spread and could have harmed wildlife and the water system, she said.
Los Angeles County public health officials issued an "extreme odor" advisory for Atwater Village.
The health department advised people in the area who might be sensitive to smell — including children, the elderly and people with chronic disease — to limit their time outdoors as long as the odor persists.