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126,000-gallon oil spill leaves dead wildlife on Southern California coast

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126,000-gallon oil spill leaves dead wildlife on Southern California coast
More than 126,000 gallons of oil have spilled off the coast of Huntington Beach, Calif., creating "toxicity" in the area and leaving dead wildlife washed up on the beach. Photo by Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley/Twitter

Oct. 3 (UPI) -- A major oil spill has dumped about 126,000 gallons of post-production crude off the coast of Southern California, officials said Sunday as cleanup crews raced to prevent further environmental degradation.

Authorities said during a press conference that the pipeline breach occurred about 5 miles off the coast of Huntington Beach in Orange County on Saturday.

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Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley told reporters that oil has already infiltrated many of its wetlands, including the Talbert Wetlands, and they are doing "everything they can" to prevent further contamination.

In a statement late Sunday, Foley said the presence of oil in Hunting Beach has become "slightly more acute" as they have seen an increasing amount wash ashore.

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"There has been a significant amount of ecological impact, including loss of birds and fish, which have been reported as washing up on shore," Foley said.

A total of 3,150 gallons of oily water has been removed, she said, adding that nine boats and three shoreline assessment teams have been dispatched for oil spill recovery operations along with 3,700 feet of boom deployed.

A health advisory has also been issued encouraging residents who may have come into contact with contaminated materials to seek medical attention.

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"Even when an oil sheen may not be visible, dispersed and dissolved oil contaminates may exist in the water," Orange County Health Officer Dr. Clayton Chau said in a statement.

The City of Huntington Beach said in a statement that the spill measures approximately 5.8 nautical miles stretching from the Huntington Beach Pier to Newport Beach, forcing a closure of the ocean from the Pier to the Santa Ana River jetty.

"The spill has significantly affected Huntington Beach, with substantial ecological impacts occurring at the beach and at the Huntington Beach Wetlands," the city said. "In response, Huntington Beach Fire and Marine Safety personnel have been deployed throughout the day to implement environmental containment efforts."

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On Sunday night, the city said via Facebook that federal, state and regional agencies have deployed cleanup crews and skimming boats to remove oil from the environment.

The U.S. Coast Guard said an oil sheen off the coast was first reported at 9:10 a.m. on Saturday morning.

The pipeline is owned by Houston-based oil and gas company Amplify Energy, President and CEO Martyn Willsher said during the news conference.

"We are fully committed to being out here until this incident is fully concluded," Willsher said.

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As of early Sunday morning, city officials said the leak had not yet been stopped but preliminary patching to repair the oil spill site has been completed as the U.S. Coast Guard will continue to respond to the incident.

The city also urged individuals to avoid the beach due to the "toxicity created by the spill" and city leadership canceled the Pacific Airshow, which was scheduled for Sunday to facilitate clean-up efforts.

Earlier Sunday, Foley tweeted that oil had washed up onto the beachfront along with dead birds and fish.

Huntington Beach Mayor Kim Carr said Coast Guard information indicates the spill may have been the result of an oil release from an offshore oil production off the coast.

Republican Rep. Michelle Steel sent a letter Sunday to President Joe Biden urging him to authorize a major disaster declaration for her Orange County community.

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"Your approval of this request is imperative for a swift recovery and the support of assistance efforts for all Californians," she wrote. "Dead fish and birds are already being reported on beaches and shorelines."

The oil spill forced the city of Huntington Beach to cancel the Pacific Airshow scheduled for Sunday.

No exact cause for the spill has been determined and the Coast Guard is conducting an investigation.

The National Transportation Safety Board tweeted two investigators have been dispatched to investigate.

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