Thousands of Gallons of Oil Sopped Up From California Coast

GOLETA, Calif. (AP) -
A worker removes oil from the beach at Refugio State Beach, north of Goleta, Calif., Thursday. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
A worker removes oil from the beach at Refugio State Beach, north of Goleta, Calif., Thursday. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

More than 7,700 gallons of oil has been raked, skimmed and vacuumed from a spill that stretched across 9 miles of California coast, just a fraction of the sticky crude that escaped from a ruptured pipeline, officials said Thursday.

Up to 105,000 gallons may have leaked from the pipeline Tuesday, and up to 21,000 gallons reached the sea just northwest of Santa Barbara, according to estimates from the pipeline operator.

The environmental impact was still being assessed, but there was no immediate evidence of widespread harm to birds and sea life.

The spill occurred along a long, rustic coast that forms the northern boundary of the Santa Barbara Channel, home to a rich array of sea life. Whales, dolphins, sea lions, seals, sea otters and birds use the waters between the mainland and the Channel Islands, five of which are a national park surrounded by a national marine sanctuary.

Workers in protective suits shoveled black sludge off beaches, and boats towed booms into place to corral two oil slicks. The number of cleanup workers surpassed 300, and the number of boats working the slicks rose to 18, officials said.

Federal regulators were investigating the cause of the leak and the pipe’s condition.

The 24-inch pipe, built in 1991, had no previous problems and was thoroughly inspected in 2012, according to the company. The pipe underwent similar tests about two weeks ago, though the results had not been analyzed yet.