44% of coastline clean after Santa Barbara County oil spill, officials say

Oil spill cleanup at Refugio State Beach.

Oil spill cleanup at Refugio State Beach.

(Christina House / For The Times)

More than 40 miles of California coastline has been cleared of oil from the Plains All American Pipeline oil spill off Santa Barbara County, officials say.

Cleanup crews have cleared 44% of 96.5 miles of shoreline from Santa Barbara and Ventura counties – mostly sandy beaches that had only trace amounts of oil, according to a statement from the oil spill’s joint information center released Sunday.

But other sections of rocky beach will have to be more meticulously cleaned by hand crews while a handful of boats sail off the coast to ensure no more oil washes ashore onto the cleaned areas, officials said.


About 14,267 gallons of oil-water mix has been recovered.

On May 19, an estimated 101,000 gallons of crude gushed from a rupture in a 10.6-mile-long pipeline and spilled up to 21,000 gallons of it into the Pacific Ocean near Refugio State Beach. Authorities say 136 birds and 67 mammals have been found dead since the spill.

A review of the damaged pipeline by the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration found that corrosion had eaten away nearly half of the pipe’s metal wall.

Regulators said an inspection by third-party metallurgists revealed metal loss of greater than 45% of the pipe wall’s thickness in the area of the break.

The 10.6-mile pipeline had “extensive” external corrosion, and the thickness of the pipe’s wall where it broke had degraded to an estimated one-sixteenth of an inch, the pipeline agency said.

Investigators found a 6-inch opening along the bottom of the pipe where it broke.

The findings were posted online as part of a larger corrective action order sent to Plains All American Pipeline. It gives the company 60 days to inspect another pipeline with similar corrosion issues — Line 903 — that transports crude oil 128 miles from Santa Barbara County to Kern County.


Line 903 is connected to the failed pipeline and has shown numerous signs of corrosion during three internal inspections in 2013 and 2014. The federal order called the corrosion data from the previous inspections “inconsistent” and called for a new review.

Plains spokeswoman Meredith Matthews said Wednesday the company would abide by the federal order. The order does not require Line 903 to stop operating, but Plains shut it down May 30.

Rep. Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara) sent a letter Wednesday to the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee requesting an oversight hearing in Santa Barbara to examine the cause of the spill and the response.

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