The Effect of Oil Spills on the Environment

Khloe Jones, Staff Writer

At the start of October 2021, residents in the Orange County, California area reported a smell and sheen coming from the nearby beaches. Locals reported seeing an oil-like substance in the ocean at Newport and Huntington beaches. Investigators realized that this sheen was from a pipeline leaking oil into the Pacific Ocean. The pipeline leaked up to 144,000 gallons of oil and was found with a 13-inch gash about 4.5 miles away from shore. The cut believes to have been made by an anchor dragging along the ocean’s seafloor. The oil spill’s size was reported to be 13 square miles and took place about 5 miles away from Southern California’s most popular beaches. This leak has been the largest offshore oil spill in California since the oil leak at Refugio State Beach near Santa Barbara in 2015. 

Offshore oil production is devastating to sensitive environmental areas and coastal areas. The oil spill has caused the ocean wildlife to have been greatly affected, killing many birds and fish. The oil’s chemicals have also seeped into the water, ruining the ocean’s food chain. Cleanup crews have raced over to help preserve the ocean and contain the oil from spreading. The oil has also contaminated Huntington Beach wetlands, and cleanup has been doing its best to stop the oil from growing. 

The oil and gas company, Amplify Energy, located in Houston, Texas, owns the broken pipeline. The pipe is more than 40 years old, which is considerably old, seeing as this type of pipeline usually is built to last up to 25 years. Many people have wondered why the pipeline leak was undetected for so long. A quote stated by the executive director of Pipeline Safety Trust, Bill Caram, explains, “Why did it take so long for the cleanup effort to begin? If the operator has a proper spill response plan, they should be able to put it into action very quickly.” Amplify Energy did not have a set plan for how they were to clean up the oil that had polluted the ocean. Amplify Energy also did not replace their pipeline as soon as they should have which caused the pipeline to weaken and more likely to leak.

This spill should remind people of the dangers of oil production and serve as a note to help stop and prevent any more oil spills like this one. Students in MHS can directly help the environment by recycling and reducing the amount of plastic and waste we use. If you feel passionate about this topic, MHS has an Environmental Sustainability Club that meets every Thursday after school and would love for you to join.