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cleanup crews pick up tar off the sand in Newport Beach California

Surfers and Ocean Enthusiasts Grounded as Largest SoCal Oil Spill in Over a Decade Covers Coast

It feels like I’ve been grounded…literally…from surfing. I’m not 15 years old, I didn’t get too sassy nor did I break curfew. But this feels like punishment for something I didn’t do and like my teenager self, I’m protesting the “parents” in this situation—big oil.

Since Saturday, October 2, an oil pipeline was punctured and has been gushing more than 126,000 gallons of crude oil through a pipeline’s 13-inch gash into the Pacific Ocean about 4 miles off the coast of Huntington Beach and Long Beach, according to news reports. However, some boaters reported smelling something in the water on Friday, October 1. The rig responsible is called the Elly rig, owned by Amplify Energy, which is based in Houston, Texas.

oil pill water is closed sign in sand in Newport Beach, California

Newport Beach River Jetties

Officials indicated that the pipeline was moved more than 100 feet across the ocean floor, which possibly suggests a ships anchor may have punctured the pipeline spilling hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude oil into the ocean, killing wildlife and soaking the coastline in tar and filth. Cleanup crews from California Fish and Wildlife and independent contractors (which I will add are hired by the oil companies) have been working for the past two weeks to clean up the spill. Ironically and it should be noted that those departments are working together—California Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Coast Guard are sharing an office in Long Beach with Amplify Energy—a company that is now under criminal investigation, according to the Orange County Register.

Amplify and the U.S. Coast Guard did not return my phone calls, texts or emails. California Fish and Wildlife referred me to the press conferences.

After a week of beach closures and many still remain closed, Huntington and Newport Beaches are allowing people to enjoy the sand, but not the shoreline or the water. Newport Harbor, Corona Del Mar, Laguna Beach and Dana Point Harbor are fully closed.

“Our beaches are largely unaffected south of the Newport Pier,” said Brad Avery, Mayor of Newport Beach.  “We do have oil on our beaches from the pier to the Santa Ana River Jetty…it’s by no means a disaster.”

black oil tar sits on the sand in Newport Beach, CA

A tar ball about the size of Swedish pancake and a pretty darn thick one, too.

According to California Fish and Wildlife’s Southern California Spill Response, 1,500 people will be helping the already 400 crewmembers in the cleanup response by the end of the week and the team has so far recovered 5,544 gallons of crude oil from Huntington Beach and south to San Diego. Additionally, 13.5 barrels of tar were recovered, 232,500 pounds of oil debris has been removed from shorelines and more than 11,000 feet of containment boom has been deployed.

“The Huntington Beach oil spill is a fateful reminder that oil does not belong on our coasts,” said Matt Sylvester, Orange County Coastkeeper communications director. “This is not the first California spill, nor will it be the last unless we move quickly to decommission oil rigs and halt all future oil contracts.”

Beaches are set to reopen when the water quality levels detect no toxins associated with the oil in the water, said an AP News report.

A 2017 study about the Keystone Pipeline conducted by Auburn University states that crude oil is made up of petroleum, mineral salts, sand and more 1,000 chemicals, like benzene, which are hazardous to humans when inhaled or touched. In their study, they noted that Ponca City, Oklahoma residents experienced an increase in health hazards once the pipeline was extended into their city, including young children who lived near the pipeline were 56 % more likely to develop leukemia.

Not only is the tar now in the Pacific off the coast and on the sands, exposure to these toxic chemicals can cause migraines, painful rashes, breathing complications, nausea, chemical sensitivities, and exacerbated cancer activity—in a word, don’t touch it. If you do touch it, here’s how to remove it, and remove it quickly!

hand with tar on it

Yuck.

What’s more, according to the same study, tar sand sinks into the water supply and that makes cleanup even more complicated, not to mention the slew of health hazards that come with a tainted water supply. Though this spill’s magnitude was not as great as several in the past, (see: Deepwater Horizon), this is an industry who’s consistent shady backdoor practices, deep pockets and faulty equipment, failure to notify the proper authorities, needs to be brought to the surface and removed from environments because our ecosystem, be it California, the Gulf and basically any ocean, land, river, … can’t and shouldn’t take much more.

“Laguna Ocean Foundation works to protect the beaches, tidepools, estuaries of our local coast and to share the wonder of those resources with the public. Harm to those resources of any kind, is a loss to us all,” said Claire Arre, Laguna Beach Ocean Foundation education and outreach coordinator. “An oil spill with the magnitude of last week’s pipeline ruptures off of Huntington Beach can devastate our coastal ecosystems in an instant. We have held our breath as our kelp forests and tidepools, our go-to snorkel and surfing spots, truly all our favorite treasures were threatened. We are thankful for the good news of minimal nearshore impact here in Laguna Beach, and hope that all of Orange County will be able to recover from this. We love our beaches and we never want this to happen again.”

partly sunny Newport Beach with a wave in the background and sparkling sand

Though it looks like that barrel is going to open up, it’s closed for you thanks to Amplify Energy.

Though networks are inundated with volunteers (a great problem to have!), it never hurts to find out how you can donate or get involved, too:

Donate to Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center

California Fish & Wildlife volunteer form

Surfrider Foundation: Text ‘OILSPILL’ to 51555

Until we get the green light, this is one grounding I will be taking seriously.

black oil tar sits on the sand in Newport Beach, CA

How to Remove Tar Off Your Body (and F*ck Big Oil!)

If in case you can’t already tell–I’m pretty heated about what’s oozing down the coast from Huntington Beach. Unless you’ve been living under a rock that’s hopefully not a glob of tar, there’s been a giant oil spill, one of the largest in Southern California in decades, that has recently hit the shores of not only HB, but is now making it’s gross, oily and destructive way down the coast. Many thanks goes out to those cleanup crews working hard to remove this shit from our environment and help the animals and plants who are suffering.

To volunteer to help in the cleanup,  text ‘oilspill’ to 51555

More details to come from this infuriated surfer girl.

If in case you got some tar stuck to your extremities or hair, here’s a helpful tip on how to remove it without removing your skin:

International Surfing Day: June 20, 2013

Go surf and do your part!

Go surf and do your part!

One of the most important days of the year will be here soon:

International Surfing Day! June 20th, 2013!

Okay, so maybe it pales in comparison to your son or daughter’s birthday, grandparent’s golden anniversary or other such annual celebrations. However, if you’re a surfer or ocean lover who works 9-5, it is a day that might require you to scan a medical dictionary for a random 24 hour illness, forge a doctor’s note, put your pasty butt into some boardies or suit and find something to do in the water or on the sand.

Do it.

As ocean-minded people, we should always find a way to give back to our beaches that continuously provide us with some of our best life experiences.

The Surfrider Foundation is a great resource to find your local beach clean-up as well as ways to get involved with other charitable activities.

Every little bit goes a long way!

Every little bit goes a long way!

Here are some ideas to consider for June 20th,:

  •  Go Surfing…and pick up some trash, too:

Well, DUH. Whatever you decide to ride, get out there and catch some wavos. Oh and while you’re at it, pick up some trash. Don’t deny it. Whether it’s in the sand or the parking lot, even the water, trash is there. And that is very LAME. If you have no time to give a beach clean-up a-go, it doesn’t hurt to pick up a few pieces of trash on your way to the water. Find a sanitary way to scoop it up and put it in the nearby trash can. A little bit can a go a long way! This awesome organization agrees with me.

  • Join a Beach Clean-Up!

There are organizations all over the states and the world that would froth for your time to clean up your local beach. Get involved!!

  • Do Your Homework

If you can watch swell charts and wind speeds on an hourly basis, you can keep up with the issues facing your local breaks and wildlife:

241 Toll Road

New Jersey Fracking

Florida Panther

Off Shore Drilling in Alaska

Washington Water Quality

Water Efficient Landscaping for Texas

  • Be a Smarty Pants!

Take the time to understand the laws and regulations that govern this country’s environment and you’ll be A-Okay.

So get out there, ride some waves, pick up some trash and smile at the locals! Good vibes for all!

Happy International Day of Surfing!!

A Little Litter For Thought:

Litter Item

Time to break down

Glass bottles

1 million years

Monofilament fishing line

600 years

Plastic beverage bottles

450 years

Disposable nappies

450 years

Aluminum can

80 – 200 years

Foam plastic cup

50 years

Plastic bag

10 – 20 years

Cigarette filter

1 – 5 years

Source: US National Park Service; Mote Marine Lab, Sarasota, Florida