El Capitan beach to reopen a month after Santa Barbara County oil spill

El Capitan State Beach to reopen after oil spill

El Capitan State Beach will reopen next Friday, more than a month after 101,000 gallons of crude oil gushed from a ruptured pipeline off the Santa Barbara County coast.

An assessment of the beach Thursday by the California Department of Parks and Recreation determined it was safe for the public. The beach will reopen June 26 for camping and day use, state officials said.

However, Refugio State Beach remains closed. Refugio received the brunt of the damage from the May 19 oil spill.

A rupture in a 10.6-mile-long pipe owned by Plains All American Pipeline leaked up to 21,000 gallons of oil into the Pacific Ocean near Refugio State Beach.

Cleanup efforts have continued along Refugio beach, where volunteers have recovered 157 mammals, 98 of which were dead. They also found 243 birds, of which 186 were dead.

Some dead animals were visibly covered in oil, others were not. The cause of death will not be known until full examination of the bodies is completed.

Cleanup crews are still collecting oiled water, sand, soil and vegetation.

Reservations at Refugio have been canceled until July 9, and cancellations may continued after that, depending on cleanup efforts.

The federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration found that corrosion ate away at nearly half of the pipe’s metal wall. A 6-inch opening was found along the bottom of the pipe where it broke.

The agency said the thickness of the pipe's wall where it ruptures had degraded to an estimated one-sixteenth of an inch.

Plains All American Pipeline has 60 days to inspect Line 903, a pipeline with similar corrosion issues. The line transports crude oil 128 miles from Santa Barbara County to Kern County and is connected to the failed pipeline.

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