Manhattan Beach tar traced to Santa Barbara oil spill

July 9, 2015
In The News

A tar sample taken from Manhattan Beach last month has been traced for the first time to the Santa Barbara oil spill, a U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife official said Monday.

Nearly the entire South Bay shoreline was closed in late May and a cleanup effort was launched to remove a petroleum-based tar-like substance that washed ashore following a massive oil spill on Refugio Beach near Santa Barbara days earlier.

“What this says is that some oil from Refugio made its way to Manhattan Beach,” said Alexia Retallack of the Department of Fish and Wildlife. “Manhattan Beach experienced a preponderance of tar balls. We have 100 samples between the two incidents — Refugio and Manhattan Beach — that need to be analyzed. One tar ball tells us that some oil made it down there.”

Retallack said there was no timetable as to when further results would be announced, after the findings are given to the state Attorney General’s Office.

“The question is, was it mixed with other materials,” she said. “That’s going to take more time.”

Rep. Ted W. Lieu, who represents the Manhattan Beach area, said news of the oil match “underscores how dangerous oil spills are to our precious coastline.”

“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,” said Lieu, D-Los Angeles.

“If Plains All American Pipeline wavers in any way, I will look into ways to ensure that they accept responsibility for the cleanup cost,” Lieu said. “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.”

On May 19, a ruptured oil pipeline spilled its contents into the ocean on an 11-mile-long underground pipe owned by Houston-based Plains, pouring thousands of gallons of crude onto the shore at Refugio State Beach.

In the following weeks, globs of oil began washing up on Southland beaches, and samples were sent to labs for analysis, Retallack said.

Testing is ongoing and it’s too early to determine if other samples could be linked to the Santa Barbara spill, she said.

Officials are investigating the cause of the Refugio pipeline rupture, which killed hundreds of birds and sea lions.

Plains is paying for the cleanup, which has surpassed $65 million.