The massive California oil spill may have been caused by a ship’s anchor that cracked a pipeline on the ocean floor, officials said Monday.
The revelation came as it surfaced that the operator of the suspect pipeline has been cited 72 times in the past for environmental and safety violations, according to records cited by The Associated Press.
As environmental crews feverishly worked to try to contain the slick, which was spreading in a “southerly direction” down the state’s coast, the head of the firm operating the pipeline told reporters that divers investigating the cause were focusing on “one area of significant interest” along the structure.
Amplify Energy CEO Martyn Willsher said the notion that an anchor of an area cargo ship may have cracked the pipe is “one of the distinct possibilities” being looked at.
Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Jeannie Shaye added, “We’re looking into if it could have been an anchor from a ship, but that’s in the assessment phase right now.”
Meanwhile, Houston-based Amplify has been cited six dozen times for issues troubling enough for its drilling to be curbed or halted altogether until the problems were fixed, regulatory records show, the AP said.
Coast Guard Capt. Rebecca Ore said the spill that dumped more than 126,000 gallons of oil into ocean waters now extends from Huntington Beach to about 6 miles down the coast to Laguna Beach.
“We know there’s oil from Huntington Beach, and as far down from Laguna, and likely continuing to move in a southerly direction based on the wind and the weather and the currents,” Ore said.
She said the agency has continued to beef up staffing in order to contain the oil spill, which has threatened wildlife and shut down beaches.
“We continue to increase our staffing at our incident command posts as well as our personnel in the field, we’ve more than doubled the level of effort just since yesterday, and those numbers will go up,” she said.
Christian Corbo, a patrol lieutenant with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, said fishing has been blocked in some areas as a result of the spill.
“The closure extends out 6 miles and a swath of about 20 miles long,” Corbo said.
“The closure basically prevents and prohibits the [taking] of any fish in those waters. We’ll have actively patrol boats from Fish and Wildlife patrolling those waters, advising recreational and commercial fishermen of those closures,” he said.
Corbo said the crews had recovered four sea birds impacted by the damage so far. One of them didn’t survive.
“A pelican, sustained wing injuries which unfortunately we had to humanely euthanize at the site,” he said.
Michael Ziccardi, director of the Oiled Wildlife Care Network, said that as of now, the spill’s toll on local wildlife “is much better than we had feared.”
But he said that while he’s “cautiously optimistic” about the spill’s outcome, only time will tell, since most oiled birds typically surface two to five days after such disasters.
— With AP
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