Oil sheen confirmed off Huntington Beach as charges are filed in earlier spill

Boats off the coast of Bolsa Chica State Beach with an oil platform in the background.
Boats survey the waters Thursday after an oil sheen was spotted off the coast of Bolsa Chica State Beach in Huntington Beach, two months after a large oil spill in the area.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

A sheen in the Pacific Ocean roughly two miles off Huntington Beach has been identified as oil, officials confirmed Thursday morning.

The sheen, which was first reported about 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, is roughly the size of a football field.

It has lingered offshore near Bolsa Chica State Beach but has not made its way onto the sand, said Jennifer Carey, a Huntington Beach police spokesperson.


Dan Andersson, 45, enjoys riding morning waves along Bolsa Chica State Beach on Thursday.
(Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times)

The source of the oil slick has not been confirmed.

“It’s so far out that on our end, we’re just going to continue to monitor the situation,” Carey said.

Berms have been installed to protect the Huntington Beach Wetlands, and the U.S. Coast Guard sent a team Wednesday night to deploy booms along the channels leading to the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. Two skimming vessels were working in the area Thursday afternoon to recover oil, according to the Coast Guard.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Response Center received a report around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday describing “an unknown sheen from an unknown source” that “looks like tar,” according to an incident report from the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.

A Huntington Beach police helicopter and a boat surveyed the water near Bolsa Chica State Beach around 8 p.m. in an attempt to confirm the report, but it was too dark and the water was too choppy to tell whether the sheen was oil.

However, marine safety officials reported smelling oil while out on the water, Carey said.

The sheen was reported on the same day that three companies were charged with criminal negligence in connection with a major oil spill that tainted the Orange County coast in early October. Huntington Beach was the most severely affected by the oil that washed ashore during that spill.

A federal grand jury accused Amplify Energy Corp. and two subsidiary firms of illegally discharging oil from a pipeline they operated off Huntington Beach.

Dec. 15, 2021


A three-page federal indictment alleges that Amplify Energy Corp. and two subsidiary firms, Beta Operating Co. and San Pedro Bay Pipeline Co., illegally discharged oil into federal waters from the pipeline they operated off Huntington Beach.

Though the size of the spill was initially overestimated at more than 100,000 gallons, the amount — more recently put at nearly 25,000 gallons — was “in a quantity that may be harmful to the public health, welfare and environment of the United States,” according to the charges.

Another oil sheen reported last month in the water off Huntington Beach sent authorities scrambling to determine if another spill was threatening the coast.

No oil washed ashore during that incident, and officials suspected the small amount that was in the water had dissipated.

Times staff writer Gregory Yee contributed to this report.