Beach cities tarballs are matched to Refugio spill

July 9, 2015
In The News

During the first week of June tarballs washed ashore closing all three beach cities. Results indicate the source was from the Refugio spill. 

Posted: Monday, June 22, 2015 4:40 pm | Updated: 5:39 pm, Mon Jun 22, 2015.

Beach cities tarballs are matched to Refugio spill by Ellen Robinson The Beach Reporter

Results from the mysterious tarballs that littered sand along the beach cities during the last week in May have been identified as chemically matching the Refugio spill on May 19 near Santa Barbara.

Plains All American Pipeline has received a portion of the lab results from its Line 901 in Santa Barbara County. More than 50 samples were collected along the shoreline from as far west as Gaviota and as far south as San Clemente Beach, including samples from Manhattan Beach, along with eight other beaches. In addition, samples were taken from seeps in the area known to be sources of shoreline oiling.

According to a Plains All American Pipeline announcement on Monday, analysis of initial samples suggests that some of the Line 901 oil appears to have migrated over to beaches in Ventura and Los Angeles counties along with oil from other sources, some of which has been confirmed to be from natural oil seeps.

Oil fingerprinting is used to determine the source of shoreline oiling by industry, researchers and government/regulatory entities.

Following the report of tarballs on Manhattan Beach in Los Angeles County, tarball samples from nine locations in that area were collected on May 27 by the U.S. Coast Guard and shared with Plains All American Pipeline in hopes of determining a source of the tarballs, in which it did.

According to the company's press release, lab results from six samples have been received to date. The results indicate that two of the samples are consistent with the oil from the Line 901 release and the other four samples are consistent with samples from natural seeps in the Santa Barbara region.  Results for the remaining three samples are pending.

Scientists from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts and the University of California – Santa Barbara used analytical techniques to provide chemical “fingerprints” of the tarballs, seeps and Line 901 oil. 

Congressman Ted W. Lieu said he'll make sure Plains All American Pipeline accepts responsibility for the cleanup costs.

“Today, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife has confirmed that oil washing up on South Bay beaches last month was the result of the Refugio/Santa Barbara oil spill,” Lieu said. “This news underscores how dangerous oil spills are to our precious coastline.  That’s why I am firmly against coastline drilling, whether it’s in Hermosa Beach or in the Arctic. Any oil spill underscores the need for America to abandon the dirty, destructive fuels of the 18th century and invest in clean 21st century energy solutions. It is my expectation that Plains All American Pipeline – the party responsible for both incidents – will pay for any cleanup costs and penalties stemming from these oil spills. If Plains All American Pipeline wavers in any way, I will look into ways to ensure that they accept responsibility for the cleanup cost. These spills also further underscore the importance of companies to continue to pay into the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund. I will continue to work closely with both the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Coast Guard to monitor this ongoing situation.”

Once the lab analysis for all samples collected during the Line 901 response are complete, sampling results will be posted at