Los Angeles

Laguna Beach Reopens Shoreline, Water Less Than 2 Weeks After Huntington Beach Oil Spill

LAGUNA BEACH (CBSLA) — In another promising sign of recovery, Laguna Beach has reopened its shoreline and water to the public Thursday.

Laguna Beach’s shoreline and water were back open for swimming and recreation just under two weeks after an oil spill off Huntington Beach left a light coating on Orange County’s beaches, oiled wildlife, and sent tar balls as far as San Diego.

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COMPLETE COVERAGE: Huntington Beach Oil Spill

HUNTINGTON BEACH, CA – OCTOBER 11: Minerva Albarran visiting with her family from Phoenix embraces the water on the beach as clean-up crews continue to comb the beach at the Huntington Beach Pier after the city of Huntington Beach and California State Parks reopened city and state beaches at 6 a.m. Monday morning October 11, 2021. The joint decision to reopen the beaches comes after water-quality testing results showed non-detectable amounts of oil associated toxins in ocean water according to Huntington Beach police spokesperson Jennifer Carey. Dunn said, The waves were not as good but it feels good to be back in the water. I feel alive!
Huntington Beach Pier on Monday, Oct. 11, 2021 in Huntington Beach, CA. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images).

The spill was initially feared to be a potential ecological disaster. But since it was first reported on Oct. 2, the volume of the oil spilled has been dialed back to an estimate of under 30,000 gallons; wildlife that was found and cleaned have already been released back into the wild, and more beaches have reopened. Laguna Beach, however, is the first to reopen its water and shoreline.

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The crude oil was determined to have leaked from an underground pipeline that was found with a 13-inch split along its length and moved more than 100 feet. Authorities are investigating if the damage was caused by a cargo ship’s anchor and when it may have happened.

But the damage has been done. Several events that were scheduled to take place in Huntington Beach had to be canceled, fisheries in the area were forced to close, and businesses up and down the coast suffered a loss of foot traffic due to people staying away. Several lawsuits have already been filed in connection with the oil spill.

An update Thursday from Orange County’s Health Care Agency said water and sediment samples haven’t indicated a public health concern for short-term exposures from use of the beaches. However, the public is still urged to not handle any tar balls or oil.

“Based on the recent results of our air and water quality samples, we ask that our residents and visitors exercise caution if you are resuming recreational activities at our beaches in order to limit the risk of contaminants being absorbed through the skin, inhalation, or ingestion,” county health officer and HCA Director Dr. Clayton Chau said in a statement.

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However, even as beaches along the coast reopen, fishing and harvesting seafood from Orange County waters remains prohibited.

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