Officials investigating one of the largest oil spills in recent history in California are looking into the possibility that a ship’s anchor struck a pipeline to trigger the leak.
Authorities are trying to control contamination from the spill using oil skimmers and floating barriers, after an estimated 126,000 gallons (570,000 litres) of heavy crude leaked into the waters off Orange County and spread to southern California beaches late on Friday.
Cleaning crews in white overalls have been scrambling to clean the area between the Huntington Beach pier and Newport Beach south of Los Angeles.
The Coast Guard is assessing whether one of their anchors could have hit the line, Captain Rebecca Ore told Reuters. “It is possible they would transit over a pipeline,” she said.
“We’re looking into if it could have been an anchor from a ship, but that’s in the assessment phase right now,” Coast Guard Lt Cmdr Jeannie Shaye told the Associated Press.
Martyn Willsher, the head of the company Amplify Energy which operates the affected pipeline, has also said an anchor striking the pipeline is “one of the distinct possibilities” behind the leak.
A clearer picture of what caused the damage would emerge by Tuesday, Mr Willsher said, adding that the company’s divers were inspecting the area of the suspected leak that was discovered on Saturday.
Orange County district attorney Todd Spitzer, however, said divers from Amplify working to investigate the oil spill should not be allowed near the pipeline without an independent authority.
Mr Spitzer said authorities were looking into the possibility of bringing state charges for the spill.
The oil spill has had an impact on beaches and wildlife, with dead birds and fish washing up ashore, while the area’s beaches could be closed to the public for weeks.
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