California oil sop-up starts, thousands of gallons gathered

  • AP, GOLETA, California
  • Updated: May 21, 2015 19:20 IST

More than 6,000 gallons (22,700 liters) of oil had been raked, skimmed and vacuumed from a spill that stretched across 9 miles (15 kilometers) of California coast in a cleanup effort that is now going 24 hours a day, officials said, but that's just a fraction of the sticky, stinking goo that escaped from a broken pipeline.

Investigators took stock of the scope of the spill on Wednesday a day after the pipeline break, finding that up to 105,000 gallons (400,000 liters) may have leaked out, and up to a fifth of that amount - 21,000 gallons (80,000 liters) - reached the sea, according to estimates.

Federal regulators were investigating the leak as workers in protective suits raked and shoveled the black sludge off the beaches, and boats towed booms into place to corral the two slicks off the Santa Barbara coast.

The chief executive of the company that runs the pipeline, Plains All American Pipeline LP, was at the site of the spill Wednesday and apologized for it.

"We deeply, deeply regret that this incident has occured at all," Chairman and CEO Greg L. Armstrong said at a news conference. "We apologize for the damage that it's done to the wildlife and to the environment."

Armstrong said the company had received permission to continue cleanup operations around the clock and vowed that they "will remain here until everything has been restored to normal."

Crude was flowing through the pipe at 54,600 gallons (206,700 liters) an hour at the time of the leak Tuesday, the company said. Company officials didn't say how long it leaked before it was discovered and shut down.

There was no estimate on the cost of the cleanup or how long it might take.

Governor Jerry Brown on Wednesday night declared a state of emergency because of the spill, a move that frees up additional state funding and resources to help in the cleanup.

The coastline was the scene of a much larger spill in 1969 - the largest in US waters at the time - that is credited with giving rise to the American environmental movement.

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