Oil spill response team seeing progress, but warn of tar balls in San Diego County

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NORTH COUNTY (CNS) – The Unified Command continued to respond to the coastal oil spill in Orange and San Diego Counties Saturday, as officials said offshore recovery teams have not seen any free-floating oil in the water for three consecutive days.

The Unified Command is headed by the U.S. Coast Guard and also including Orange County, San Diego County, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and Amplify Energy Corp. — the company that owns the damaged pipeline that leaked the oil.

The leak was reported on the morning of Oct. 2 a few miles off the Huntington Beach coast, although some boaters reported smelling something in the water Friday.

In San Diego County, the public can expect to see Shoreline Cleanup Assessment Teams and work crews equipped in protective gear, monitoring, inspecting, and cleaning the beaches.

Assessment teams were scheduled to check these locations in San Diego County for any visible signs of oil:

— Encinitas

— Del Mar

— Solana Beach

— Carlsbad Desalination Plant

Beaches in Encinitas remained open Saturday despite reports of tar balls washing ashore.

The public may encounter the tar balls when visiting San Diego beaches, the Unified Command said Saturday.

“Oil contains hazardous chemicals, and for safety reasons, do not handle any tar balls or oil, the command warned.

“If beachgoers encounter tar balls, we encourage them to email tarballreports@wildlife.ca.gov, the group said. “If skin contact occurs, wash the area with soap and water or baby oil. Avoid using solvents, gasoline, kerosene, diesel fuel, or similar products on the skin.”

More than 1,300 people were conducting response operations, 5,544 total gallons of crude oil have been recovered by vessels, and 13.5 barrels of tar balls were recovered Friday.

Approximately 232,500 pounds of oily debris was recovered from shorelines, three overflights were scheduled for Saturday, and  11,400 feet of containment boom have been strategically deployed.

In Carlsbad, one of San Diego County’s largest sources of locally produced drinking water was closely monitoring the impact the oil spill could have in the area. The Carlsbad Desalination Plant provides 10% of San Diego County’s drinking water and produces 50 million gallons of desalinated seawater a day.

As of Friday morning, Sachin Chawla, the president of Poseidon Resources Channelside, said there were no signs of oil near the plant.

“Things are looking pretty good and we are running at full capacity,” he said.

Chawla said officials are aware of tar balls washing up on beaches in North County. However, he said they are no threat to the plant.

“If things get worse, there’s a way to capture that oil before it gets to the plant,” Chawla said.

State agencies placed white snares at the mouth of the Agua Hedionda Lagoon, the plant’s intake source.

“If there is some tar or floating oil, oil slick coming in, it’ll be seen and then we’ll be notified about that,” Chawla added.

Farther back in the lagoon are booms, yellow floating devices that can prevent oil from coming near the plant.

The cause of the spill remains under investigation.

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