Coast Guard investigating reports of an oil sheen near area of October’s oil spill off southern California coast

Unified command continues response to oil spill off Newport Beach
126,000 gallons of oil spilled off California coast
02:41 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

The US Coast Guard said it is investigating reports of an oil sheen, about 30-by-70 feet in size, which was spotted Saturday in roughly the same area where about 25,000 gallons of crude oil spilled into the Pacific Ocean off the Southern California coast in October.

The sheen was “reported in vicinity of damaged pipeline,” USCG Southern California wrote in a tweet Saturday afternoon. In a later update, the coast guard said no oil sheen was “currently observed by on-water and aerial assets.”

“Previous syntho-glass wrap was removed from pipeline, new wrap was installed. Crews will monitor the line overnight ensuring effectiveness,” it said, adding there is an ongoing investigation to determine if the reported sheen was associated with the pipeline or a separate source.

Syntho glass is a pipeline repair product, which, according to its maker, is designed to match or exceed the burst strength of the original pipe.

October’s spill was caused by a leak in a pipeline operated by Houston-based Amplify Energy which is connected to an oil rig. Investigators believed the 13-inch linear crack in the pipeline, likely caused by a ship’s anchor dragging along the ocean floor, could have occurred as much as a year earlier.

A California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesperson told CNN in a statement crews scheduled to work on the pipeline observed the sheen Saturday as they approached the area.

“Divers conducting the planned assessments on the line then discovered small droplets on the syntho-glass wrap. Unified Command deployed pollution responders and oil spill response organization assets to investigate the sheen and whether it was related to the pipeline,” Eric Laughlin wrote.

As of Saturday afternoon, no sheen was observed, Laughlin added, echoing the coast guard’s statement about the re-installment of new wrap on the line.

“The pipeline has remained shut down since the initial incident on October 2,” the spokesperson added.

Container ships and an oil derrick line in the horizon as environmental oil spill cleanup crews search Huntington Beach on October 5, 2021, cleaning up oil chucks from the oil spill

California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office also said in a tweet they had received reports of the oil sheen off the coast of Orange County, adding “the state will assist in responding and investigating this incident.”

A Huntington Beach police spokesperson told CNN in an email they were made aware of a potential oil sheen and have been in touch with the coast guard.

“As a proactive measure, we have deployed our Police helicopter and our Marine Safety boat to evaluate the surrounding area,” police spokesperson Jennifer Carey said. “At this time, our Fire Department is prepped and on standby to deploy preventative equipment, as necessary.”

California state Senator Dave Min, who also tweeted about the incident, wrote initial observations from the Coast Guard and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife indicated they are “not seeing signs of an oil spill.”

“Possible that the first sheen was related to remedial work being done on the damaged pipeline,” Min wrote.

“Obviously, federal and state responders will continue to monitor the area. I’ll post further updates as I get them,” he added.

The breach earlier this year, reported on October 2, occurred about five miles off the coast of Huntington Beach. Orange County health officials advised residents at the time to avoid recreational activities on the coastline, recommending people who may have encountered the oil seek medical attention.

Huntington Beach reopened its shoreline after water testing results came back with non-detectable amounts of oil-associated toxins in ocean water.

CNN’s Sarah Moon contributed to this report.