Ruptured Pipeline Spills Oil Along Santa Barbara Coast
  • Ruptured Pipeline Spills Oil Along Santa Barbara Coast
  • GOLETA, CALIFORNIA - MAY 19: Officials walk along an the oil-covered beach on May 19, 2015 north of Goleta, California. About 21,000 gallons spilled from an abandoned pipeline on the land near Refugio State Beach, spreading over about four miles of beach within hours. The largest oil spill ever in U.S. waters at the time occurred in the same section of the coast in 1969 where numerous offshore oil platforms can be seen, giving birth to the modern American environmental movement. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
  • Image Credit: David McNew via Getty Images
Ruptured Pipeline Spills Oil Along Santa Barbara Coast
  • Ruptured Pipeline Spills Oil Along Santa Barbara Coast
  • GOLETA, CALIFORNIA - MAY 19: Oil surrounds the feet of local resident Morgan Miller as he patrols the beach for oiled wildlife on May 19, 2015 north of Goleta, California. About 21,000 gallons spilled from an abandoned pipeline on the land near Refugio State Beach, spreading over about four miles of beach within hours. The largest oil spill ever in U.S. waters at the time occurred in the same section of the coast in 1969 where numerous offshore oil platforms can be seen, giving birth to the modern American environmental movement. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
  • Image Credit: David McNew via Getty Images
California Oil Spill
  • California Oil Spill
  • Kristen Karnes, left, and Eric Simon, air monitors with the Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health, take readings at the site of an oil spill at Refugio State Beach, north of Goleta, Calif., Wednesday, May 20, 2015. A broken onshore pipeline spewed oil down a storm drain and into the ocean for several hours Tuesday before it was shut off, creating a slick some 4 miles long about 20 miles west of Santa Barbara. (AP Photo/Michael A. Mariant)
  • Image Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS
California Oil Spill
  • California Oil Spill
  • A clean up worker heads to the shoreline while a larger group of workers begin clean up operations at Refugio State Beach, site of an oil spill, north of Goleta, Calif., Wednesday, May 20, 2015. A broken onshore pipeline spewed oil down a storm drain and into the ocean for several hours Tuesday before it was shut off, creating a slick some 4 miles long about 20 miles west of Santa Barbara. (AP Photo/Michael A. Mariant)
  • Image Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS
US-OIL-POLLUTION-EXXONMOBIL
  • US-OIL-POLLUTION-EXXONMOBIL
  • A brown pelican is reflected in an oil slick in the water, at Refugio State Beach in Goleta, California on May 19, 2015. An oil pipeline ruptured Tuesday dumping oil into the Pacific Ocean near Santa Barbara, California, the US Coast Guard said. AFP PHOTO/ ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
  • Image Credit: ROBYN BECK via Getty Images
Ruptured Pipeline Spills Oil Along Santa Barbara Coast
  • Ruptured Pipeline Spills Oil Along Santa Barbara Coast
  • GOLETA, CALIFORNIA - MAY 19: Local residents Josh Marsh and Morgan Miller (R) patrol the oil-covered beach for distressed wildlife on May 19, 2015 north of Goleta, California. About 21,000 gallons spilled from an abandoned pipeline on the land near Refugio State Beach, spreading over about four miles of beach within hours. The largest oil spill ever in U.S. waters at the time occurred in the same section of the coast in 1969 where numerous offshore oil platforms can be seen, giving birth to the modern American environmental movement. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
  • Image Credit: David McNew via Getty Images
California Oil Spill
  • California Oil Spill
  • This photo provided by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department shows an oil slick from a broken pipeline off the central California coast near Santa Barbara on Tuesday, May 19, 2015. Capt. Dave Zaniboni of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department says the pipeline on the land near Refugio State Beach broke Tuesday and spilled oil into a culvert that ran under the U.S. 101 freeway and into the ocean. (Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Department via AP)
  • Image Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS
California Oil Spill
  • California Oil Spill
  • In this photo provided by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department people walk on a beach with an oil slick from a broken pipeline off the central California coast near Santa Barbara on Tuesday, May 19, 2015. Capt. Dave Zaniboni of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department says the pipeline on the land near Refugio State Beach broke Tuesday and spilled oil into a culvert that ran under the U.S. 101 freeway and into the ocean. (Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Department via AP)
  • Image Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS
California Oil Spill
  • California Oil Spill
  • This photo provided by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department shows an oil slick from a broken pipeline off the central California coast near Santa Barbara on Tuesday, May 19, 2015. Capt. Dave Zaniboni of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department says the pipeline on the land near Refugio State Beach broke Tuesday and spilled oil into a culvert that ran under the U.S. 101 freeway and into the ocean. (Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Department via AP)
  • Image Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS
APTOPIX California Oil Spill
  • APTOPIX California Oil Spill
  • Clean up crews remove oil-laden sand on the beach at Refugio State Beach, site of an oil spill, north of Goleta, Calif., Wednesday, May 20, 2015. A broken onshore pipeline spewed oil down a storm drain and into the ocean for several hours Tuesday before it was shut off, creating a slick some 4 miles long about 20 miles west of Santa Barbara. (AP Photo/Michael A. Mariant)
  • Image Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS
California Oil Spill
  • California Oil Spill
  • This photo provided by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department shows an oil slick from a broken pipeline off the central California coast near Santa Barbara on Tuesday, May 19, 2015. Capt. Dave Zaniboni of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department says the pipeline on the land near Refugio State Beach broke Tuesday and spilled oil into a culvert that ran under the U.S. 101 freeway and into the ocean. (Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Department via AP)
  • Image Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS
California Oil Spill
  • California Oil Spill
  • This photo provided by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department shows an oil slick from a broken pipeline off the central California coast near Santa Barbara on Tuesday, May 19, 2015. Capt. Dave Zaniboni of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department says the pipeline on the land near Refugio State Beach broke Tuesday and spilled oil into a culvert that ran under the U.S. 101 freeway and into the ocean. (Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Department via AP)
  • Image Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS
California Oil Spill
  • California Oil Spill
  • This photo provided by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department shows an oil slick from a broken pipeline off the central California coast near Santa Barbara on Tuesday, May 19, 2015. Capt. Dave Zaniboni of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department says the pipeline on the land near Refugio State Beach broke Tuesday and spilled oil into a culvert that ran under the U.S. 101 freeway and into the ocean. (Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Department via AP)
  • Image Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS
California Oil Spill
  • California Oil Spill
  • Clean up crews walk down the beach at Refugio State Beach, site of an oil spill, north of Goleta, Calif., Wednesday, May 20, 2015. A broken onshore pipeline spewed oil down a storm drain and into the ocean for several hours Tuesday before it was shut off, creating a slick some 4 miles long about 20 miles west of Santa Barbara. (AP Photo/Michael A. Mariant)
  • Image Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS
Ruptured Pipeline Spills Oil Along Santa Barbara Coast
  • Ruptured Pipeline Spills Oil Along Santa Barbara Coast
  • GOLETA, CALIFORNIA - MAY 19: Spilled oil covers the beach at Refugio State Beach as the Channel Islands are seen in the distance on May 19, 2015 north of Goleta, California. About 21,000 gallons spilled from an abandoned pipeline on the land near Refugio State Beach, spreading over about four miles of beach within hours. The largest oil spill ever in U.S. waters at the time occurred in the same section of the coast where numerous offshore oil platforms can be seen, giving birth to the modern American environmental movement. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
  • Image Credit: David McNew via Getty Images
US-OIL-POLLUTION-EXXONMOBIL
  • US-OIL-POLLUTION-EXXONMOBIL
  • Oil covers rocks and sand at Refugio State Beach in Goleta, California, May 19, 2015. An oil pipeline ruptured dumping oil into the Pacific Ocean near Santa Barbara, California, the US Coast Guard said. The spill was estimated at 21,000 gallons (80,000 liters) of oil, local media reported. AFP PHOTO/ ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
  • Image Credit: ROBYN BECK via Getty Images
Ruptured Pipeline Spills Oil Along Santa Barbara Coast
  • Ruptured Pipeline Spills Oil Along Santa Barbara Coast
  • GOLETA, CALIFORNIA - MAY 19: Spilled oil covers the beach at Refugio State Beach as the Channel Islands are seen in the distance on May 19, 2015 north of Goleta, California. About 21,000 gallons spilled from an abandoned pipeline on the land near Refugio State Beach, spreading over about four miles of beach within hours. The largest oil spill ever in U.S. waters at the time occurred in the same section of the coast where numerous offshore oil platforms can be seen, giving birth to the modern American environmental movement. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
  • Image Credit: David McNew via Getty Images
Cleanup crews fanned out Wednesday along a stretch of scenic California coastline stained by thousands of gallons of crude oil that spilled from broken pipe and flowed into the Pacific Ocean. Workers from an environmental cleanup company strapped on boots and gloves and picked up shovels and rakes to tackle the gobs of goo stuck to sand and rocks along Refugio State Beach on the southern Santa Barbara County coast. The accident happened on the same stretch of coastline as a 1969 spill, which was the largest ever in US waters at the time and is credited with giving rise to the American environmental movement.

Members of the International Bird Rescue organization were also on hand Wednesday to clean any birds that become covered with oil, though none were immediately spotted in the calm seas that produced only small waves.

The broken onshore pipeline spewed oil down a storm drain and into the ocean for several hours Tuesday before it was shut off, creating a slick some four miles long about 20 miles west of Santa Barbara.

Initial estimates put the spill at about 21,000 gallons, but that figure would likely change after a Wednesday morning flyover gave a better sense of the scope, US Coast Guard spokeswoman Jennifer Williams said.

Authorities responding to reports of a foul smell near Refugio State Beach around noon found a half-mile slick in the ocean, county fire Capt. Dave Zaniboni said. They traced the oil to the pipeline that spilled into a culvert running under a highway and into a storm drain that empties into the ocean.

California Oil Spill

The 24-inch pipeline was shut off about three hours later. It's owned by Plains All American Pipeline, which said it stopped the flow of oil and blocked the culvert. "Plains deeply regrets this release has occurred and is making every effort to limit its environmental impact," the company said in a statement.

After the spill, boats from the nonprofit collective Clean Seas helped with cleanup but were having trouble because much of the oil was close to the shore, Williams said. About 850 gallons of oil have been recovered from the water, she said.

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife has closed fishing and shellfish harvesting for a mile east and west of the beach.

The area is home to offshore oil rigs, and small amounts of tar from natural seepage regularly show up on beaches. In 1969, several hundred thousand gallons spilled from a blowout on an oil platform and thousands of seabirds and many marine mammals were killed.

The oil industry brings risks, said Bob Deans, spokesman for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

"Santa Barbara learned that lesson over 40 years ago when offshore drilling led to disaster," he said in a statement.

The Santa Barbara-based Environmental Defense Center said having it occur in "a sensitive and treasured environment is devastating to watch." The group expressed special concern for the many whale species that migrate through the area.

"Oil spills are part of the ugly cost of fossil fuel development, made even worse by aging domestic infrastructure," said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director for the Center for Biological Diversity.

It was unclear how long the cleanup would take and whether Refugio beach and other areas would be reopened in time for Memorial Day weekend.

Related Video:

Oil Spills Off California Coast


The AP contributed to this report.

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