Oil Spill in Santa Barbara’s Pacific Ocean Leaves County Coastline Coated

21,000 gallons of crude oil enter the Pacific off Santa Barbara’s Refugio State Beach

On Tuesday, Santa Barbara’s shoreline blackened with oil spewing from a ruptured pipeline near Refugio State Beach. 21,000 gallons of crude oil coated the Pacific with a plume approximately four miles wide before the disaster was reported and contained at around noon, authorities say.

The incident took place when an onshore pipeline burst near a storm drain that funnels into the ocean off Santa Barbara. The company responsible for the mishap, Plains All-American Pipeline, put out a statement expressing regret and declaring that the source was shut off immediately upon report. Meanwhile, the slick is currently settling on beaches along a large stretch of the county’s coast, though the full extent of damage remains unconfirmed.

“Plains shut down the flow of oil in the pipeline and has initiated its emergency response plan,” the company’s report says. “The culvert has been blocked so no additional oil is reaching the water. Plains is working with local officials and first responders on site to begin clean up and remediation efforts.”

The Coast Guard and local fire departments immediately responded with clean-up efforts. As of 7:30 this morning, 73 vessels including six “boom vessels,” along side many volunteers working onshore, were in operation to clean up the spill, according to Cal Spill Watch.

Coincidentally, the spill occurred along the same stretch of coastline where an even larger spill influenced a massive environmental movement back in 1969. The 21,000 gallons of oil resulting from Tuesday’s spill is much less than the ’69 spill, which was the third largest in U.S. history behind 2010’s BP Oil Spill and the 1989 Exxon Valdez incident. For comparison, the BP Oil Spill (the largest in U.S. history) released more than 130 million gallons, upwards of 6,000 times the amount released Tuesday.

Immediate paddling zones affected include Refugio State Beach, the surf break at El Capitan and much of The Ranch, with threat of contamination and beach closure possibly reaching as far south as Sands and north to Jalama. Stay tuned for updates.

*Featured image credit: Christina Eliason Lloyd/FB Newswire