A broken pipeline onshore in California leaked oil into a storm drain and into the Pacific Ocean for several hours before it ended up shut off, creating a slick four miles long, officials said.
Initial estimates put the Tuesday spill at 21,000 gallons, U.S. Coast Guard spokeswoman Jennifer Williams said.
The spill was about 20 miles northwest of Santa Barbara, and the Coast Guard said overnight winds could bring it 2 to 4 miles closer.
Authorities responding to reports of a foul smell near Refugio State Beach around noon found a half-mile slick already formed in the ocean, Santa Barbara County Fire Capt. Dave Zaniboni said. They traced the oil to an onshore pipeline that spilled into a culvert running under the U.S. 101 freeway and into a storm drain that empties into the ocean.
Officials turned the pipeline off about three hours later but by then the slick stretched four miles and 50 yards into the water.
Plains All American Pipeline owns the 24-inch pipeline. The company said it shut down the flow of oil and blocked the culvert carrying the oil to the ocean.
“Plains deeply regrets this release has occurred and is making every effort to limit its environmental impact,” the company said.
The Coast Guard, county emergency officials and state parks officials were cleaning up the spill. Boats from the nonprofit collective Clean Seas also were providing help but were having trouble because so much of the oil was so close to the shore, Williams said. Williams said they recovered about 850 gallons of oil from the water.
The stretch of coastline is home to offshore oil rigs and small amounts of tar and seepage regularly show up on beaches.
An investigation into the cause of the ruptured pipeline is ongoing.