HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. (AP) — More than five days after an offshore pipeline ruptured off the Southern California coast, there’s still no confirmation of exactly how much oil has spilled into the ocean.
The company operating the affected oil platforms has said publicly that no more than 126,000 gallons leaked. But Houston-based Amplify Energy has also told federal investigators the total amount may only be 29,400 gallons. And local officials say they hope that the total spillage could wind up being less than initially feared.
An expert says the amount of oil spilled should be easily and quickly known to the operator.
“If they know what the flow rate was in the pipeline, and how much the pressure dropped, and for how long, you could calculate that in a matter of minutes,” David Pettit, a senior attorney at the National Resources Defense Council, told the Associated Press.
“This is money to them. … They know how much they lost, I am certain of that.”
Amplify is also being questioned for the speed of its response to the crisis.
After an alarm went off in a company control room at 2:30 a.m. Saturday — signaling a rupture that would spill tens of thousands of gallons of crude into the Pacific Ocean — the company waited more than three hours to shut down the pipeline, at 6:01 a.m., according to preliminary findings of an investigation into the spill.
The Houston-based company took another three hours to notify the U.S. Coast Guard’s National Response Center for oil spills, investigators said, further slowing the response to an accident for which Amplify workers spent years preparing.
“How come it took so long? That’s a fair question,” said Richard Kuprewicz, a pipeline consultant and private accident investigator from Redmond, Washington. “If you have any doubt, your action should be to shut down and close. … Something’s not quite right here.”
Meanwhile, in San Diego this week, authorities say they’re preparing for the possibility that crude reaches the region.
“It appears some of the oil is making its way south, but it has yet to enter San Diego County waters,” Jeff Toney, who runs the county’s Office of Emergency Services, and Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said in a joint statement. “Some protective measures have been put in place by response agencies including a protective boom at the mouth of the Santa Margarita River on Camp Pendleton.”
The officials added that there was “no immediate threat to San Diego County” but said a team was acting proactively to protect local watersheds, beaches and wildlife.
Officials at the Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad desalination plant, San Diego County’s largest single source of locally produced drinking water, were also preparing to ward off any potential impacts to production.