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Orange County Oil Spill

In early October, miles of California coastline were left covered in oil following the pipeline breach that spilled over 126,000 gallons of heavy crude oil into the Pacific Ocean, threatening wildlife and closing miles of beaches. The pipeline was operated by Beta Offshore, a division of Amplify Energy Corp, one of Southern California’s largest oil producers.

The oil spill has impacted beaches and a protected marshland, possibly closing them for weeks. Commercial and recreational fishing are also affected. The Coast Guard has classified this as a Major Oil Spill.

Orange County Health Care Agency Issues Advisory

On October 3, OC Health Care Agency (HCA) County Health Officer Dr. Clayton Chau issued a health advisory to recommend that those who “encountered” the oil spill seek medical attention.

According to the HCA’s Environmental Health Division, spilled oil can pose a skin contact concern. This is because it contains volatile compounds that can evaporate in the air. Depending on their concentration, such pollutants may travel by the wind and aerosols. In addition, petroleum products contain toxic chemicals such as benzene and aromatic hydrocarbons. Prolonged exposure to these chemicals may cause health issues.

Short-Term and Long-Term Health Effects of Oil Spills

Fumes, chemical reactions, and fires following an oil spill contaminated the water and air, causing possible short-term and long-term health effects. A study of 88 oil spill cleanup workers found the workers had ongoing symptoms, including:

  • Low platelet counts in blood
  • Low hemoglobin levels
  • Breathing problems
  • Liver and lung problems
  • Heart issues

Additional long-term health consequences can include:

  • Increased risk of cancer
  • Reproductive issues
  • Decreased immunity

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Amplify Rig OC OilSpill

Timeline: Delay in Shutdown

Amplify Energy’s Emergency response plan to address a major oil spill like the Orange County spill depended on a quick shutdown of the San Pedro Bay Pipeline if sensors indicated a sudden loss of pressure.

For example, at 2:30 AM on Saturday, October 2, an alarm in the company control room signaled a rupture in the pipeline that would spill tens of thousands of crude oil into the Pacific Ocean.

However, according to preliminary investigation findings, the company would not shut down the pipeline for three more hours at 6:01 AM.

Amplify waited another three more hours to notify the US Coast Guard’s National Response Center for oil spills, further delaying the response.

On October 5, California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in Orange County. California and federal officials updated the maximum potential of the spill to 144,000 gallons.