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On oil-splattered beach at Refugio, man sings mournful ode to nature

At site of Santa Barbara County oil spill, man sings mournful ode to nature in Chumash dialect

On the black-splattered beach at Refugio, where a ruptured oil pipeline spilled its contents into the ocean, burly Peuyoko Perez sang in a Chumash dialect, a mournful ode to the willow and its flexibility.

An auto parts driver from Ventura, he paid homage Wednesday to nature and the sea, pleading for willow-like flexibility among conflicting interests in figuring out how to clean up the mess and prevent future disasters.

"This is an attack against the land, animals, fish, human beings -- and I'm tired of it," Perez said.

Amid inky clusters of seaweed, he looked out at the ocean. He said he planned to burn sage later in the day, for cleansing.

Down the beach, workers on their breaks shed their soiled protective suits as they stood in shallow blue plastic tubs the size of toddlers' wading pools.

Peeling off their yellow boot coverings, they scrubbed the work boots beneath them with heavy brushes. The antiseptic smell of household cleansers vied for a moment with the smell of oil.

"Remember guys, gloves off last," a supervisor reminded them.

The rupture occurred Tuesday afternoon on an 11-mile-long underground pipe owned by Houston-based Plains All American Pipeline, spilling thousands of gallons of crude onto the once-pristine shore at Refugio State Beach.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife said they had several teams searching for wildlife that might have been affected by the oil.

A department representative said there were anecdotal reports of dead and live birds covered in oil and that “undoubtedly there has been impact to wildlife.”

The fish and wildlife department has asked members of the public to not try to clean injured or oil-covered animals and to instead report them to the Oiled Wildlife Care Network at (877) 823-6926, toll free.

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