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Gusher of Oil Spills Into Creek, L.A. River

Times Staff Writer

Thousands of gallons of crude oil from a broken pipeline in Granada Hills flowed about 30 miles along Bull Creek and the Los Angeles River on Tuesday before work crews stemmed the tide near Dodger Stadium.

The spilling of 4,200 to 20,000 gallons of crude oil destined for a Torrance refinery threatened wildlife along the waterways, coating ducks and other birds with the heavy crude, officials said. But no one was injured seriously and homes were not evacuated.

The crude bubbled up onto Woodley Avenue near Nanette Street when the Mobil Oil Co. pipeline burst about 7:30 p.m. Monday. Much of the oil flowed into storm drains and ran into Bull Creek south of the Knollwood Country Club, city Fire Department officials said.

Booms Used

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Work crews from a private cleanup firm used booms to try to stop the slick before it entered the Los Angeles River in the Sepulveda Dam Recreation Area, fire officials said. But they were not able to get there until about 3 a.m., and much of the oil had already spilled into the river, beginning its journey another 22 miles downstream.

Workers with two firms hired by Mobil, International Technology Co. of Wilmington and the Crosby and Overton Co. of Long Beach, followed the flow of oil downriver. By Tuesday afternoon they were able to intercept the oil by placing floating booms in the river at Riverside Drive and the Pasadena Freeway, officials said.

Booms were placed as a precaution at Pacific Coast Highway, near where the river empties into the Pacific in Long Beach, but fire officials said the oil did not reach that far.

Danger to Wildlife

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No homes were threatened by the spill. But the oiled streets where the pipeline broke caused two minor automobile accidents, and the gushing crude posed a severe hazard to wildlife near the creek and river, Fish and Game Lt. Reed Smith said.

State Department of Fish and Game spokesman Pat Moore said wardens spotted 10 mallards, a shore bird and a heron coated with the heavy crude that normally flows through the 10-inch pipeline. They were able to capture and clean three birds, he said.

“There’s no telling what other wildlife may have been affected that we weren’t able to spot,” Moore said.

Mobil spokeswoman Linda Agens said corrosion apparently caused the rupture in the 22-year-old pipeline, which runs from oil fields in Belridge, near Bakersfield, to the Mobil refinery in Torrance.

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Estimates of the amount of oil spilled varied widely.

Agens said that from 100 to 150 42-gallon barrels--as little as 4,200 gallons--spilled when the pipeline broke. Moore said about 300 barrels of crude were lost, and city officials of the Los Angeles Department of Public Works estimated the spillage at 20,000 gallons.

“We really won’t know until the cleanup is finished,” public works spokeswoman Rosalyn Robson said.

Agens said Mobil Oil will pay for the cleanup, which will require vacuuming the oil from the creek and river and removing saturated soil. She said she did not know how much the cleanup will cost or how long it will take. Smith said the cleanup will take a week to 10 days and cost more than $100,000.

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The fish-and-game department will investigate the spill before determining if pollution or wildlife-habitat laws were broken, Moore said.

The spill was discovered when paramedics responded to the first of the two automobile accidents and found the oil leaking through a 15-foot-long, jagged crack in Woodley just south of Nanette.

Thirteen Fire Department units spread chemical foam to neutralize the oil on the street. About 45 minutes after the paramedics arrived, oil company officials shut a valve near Magic Mountain in Valencia that regulates the flow of oil through the pipeline.


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