The California Coastal Commission records these major oil spills that have caused environmental damage from Southern California to the San Francisco Bay Area.
A pipeline leak in Orange County waters beginning Saturday, October 2, 2021, dumped at least 126,000 gallons, eroding beaches and killing wildlife from the Huntington Beach Pier to Newport Beach.
Here is the commission’s brief history of the large California oil spill, as well as information on the environmental damage that a spill could cause:
- In 1969, a Union oil drilling rig platform exploded off the coast of Santa Barbara, spilling 4.2 million gallons of crude oil into the ocean and nearby coasts. This disaster is considered the catalyst of the modern environmental movement.
- In 1971, 800,000 gallons of bunker fuel spilled into the San Francisco Bay, with devastating effects on local species.
- In Huntington Beach in 1990, a US merchant oil tanker spilled more than 416,000 gallons of crude, killing an estimated 3,400 birds.
- In 2007, a container ship struck the Bay Bridge and spilled 58,000 gallons of bunker fuel into the San Francisco Bay.
- On May 19, 2015, a crude oil pipeline spilled 100,000 gallons into the ocean at Refugio State Beach in Santa Barbara County.
And here’s the commission’s explanation of why an oil spill could be so devastating to birds and other wildlife, and make seafood unsuitable for human consumption.
“Oil in water can be fatal to animals. The oil is poisonous if swallowed. When birds apply oil to their feathers, it degrades the vital waterproofing that is needed to keep a bird warm. A bird may also lose its ability to swim in water or fly if it is covered with oil. Oil-fed marine mammals can suffer from hypothermia. The oil in fish can cause fertility problems and genetic abnormalities. Contaminants can enter the food chain and result in seafood that is unfit for people to eat.”