The US Coast Guard is investigating the possibility of a second oil spill off the Southern California beach where a pipeline was recently breached, spewing crude into the water.
Coast Guard aircraft and boats were dispatched on Saturday afternoon after an oil sheen of approximately 2,100 square feet was reported off Huntington Beach, where the original rupture occurred.
In an update, officials said that they were not able to observe the reported oil sheen, and were investigating whether the sighting was related to the breached pipeline, remediation efforts, or a separate source.
On Friday, federal officials identified the Chinese state-operated cargo ship COSCO Beijing as suspected of causing the original massive oil spill on October 2.
An aerial photo shows floating barriers known as booms set up to try to stop further incursion into the Wetlands Talbert Marsh after the original oil spill in Huntington Beach last month
The Cosco Beijing cargo ship is under investigation for its potential involvement in an early October oil spill off the Southern California coastline
The original leak stemmed from a 17.5-mile pipeline spanning from Amplify’s Elly oil rig seven miles off the coast of Long Beach to a pump station operated by Beta Offshore, a Long Beach unit of Houston-based Amplify, and spread to a slew of beaches and coastal areas across California’s Orange County
The Beijing is suspected of dragging its anchor on the sea floor and cracking the crucial pipeline, according to the Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board.
The pipeline has remained shut down since the original incident, the Coast Guard said on Friday.
Following the new reported spill, previous syntho-glass wrap was removed from the damaged pipeline, and new wrap was installed.
Crews will monitor the line overnight ensuring that the seal is effective.
Although the pipe was hit by the anchor in January, it didn’t begin to leak oil until October, an investigation found.
The finding means investigators will now be able to be examine the suspect vessel Beijing more closely as the probe into the spill moves forward.
The pipe (circled in red) was dragged 105 feet away and is bowed after a suspected anchor dragged it across the ocean floor
The US Coast Guard reported the pipeline rupture spilled thousands of gallons of oil into the Pacific Ocean, but it’s believed the pipeline was damaged in January
Federal investigators managed to determine that the ship had been involved in the anchor dragging incident, which happened ‘in close proximity’ to an underwater pipeline.
The pipeline was later found to be the source of the leak, causing thousands of gallons of oil to spew into the ocean – which shut beaches and marinas in Orange County.
The rupture was to a pipeline owned by Amplify Energy in federal waters at the Elly oil-rig platform some 4½ miles offshore.
The pipeline runs for 18 miles from Amplify’s offshore drilling platforms to a Long Beach pump station.
It was confirmed that Amplify’s pipeline was damaged and moved for more than 100 feet along the ocean floor, suggesting the ship’s anchor may have caused the damage.
Beaches in Orange County were closed for about a week after the oil spread along the coast
It was initially thought around 144,000 gallons of oil could have leaked from the pipeline but officials determined the amount was far lower – at around 25,000, although there is no firm figure.
The shorelines in Huntington Beach, which is known as ‘Surf City USA,’ and neighboring Newport Beach were shut down for a short time.
Coastal shops ended up taking a hit and environmental advocates have voiced concerns about the long-term impact of the spill on sensitive wetland areas and wildlife.
More than four dozen animals, mostly birds and fish, were found dead in the week after the spill, though not all were visibly oiled.
It’s not known why the leak occurred eight months later rather than at the time of the anchor collision.
Authorities also are looking into whether other anchors hit and weakened the pipeline or if a preexisting condition with the line was to blame.