Surfers at the Huntington Beach Pier. File photo via Pixabay

The city of Huntington Beach and California State Parks announced that beaches in Orange County reopened Monday following progress in cleaning up the oil spill.

The decision to reopen the beaches at 6 a.m. came after water-quality testing results showed non-detectable amounts of oil associated toxins in ocean water, Huntington Beach Police spokeswoman Jennifer Carey said.

“The health and safety of our residents and visitors is of the utmost importance. We understand the significance our beaches have on tourism, our economy and our overall livelihood here in Huntington Beach,” said Huntington Beach Mayor Kim Carr. “It is important that our decision to reopen our shoreline and water be based on data and that we continue to monitor the water quality going forward.”

Officials continued to warn the public not to handle any tar balls they may encounter on the sand. Oil contains hazardous chemicals, and beachgoers who encounter tar balls were encouraged to email tarballreports@wildlife.ca.gov.

If skin contact occurs, the advice is to wash the area with soap and water or baby oil and avoid using solvents, gasoline, kerosene, diesel fuel, or similar products on the skin. Officials say these products, when applied to skin, present a greater health hazard than the tar ball itself.

According to data provided Sunday afternoon by the unified command handling the cleanup effort:

  • More than 1,600 people are conducting response operations
  • To date, 5,544 total gallons of crude oil have been recovered
  • 13.6 barrels of tar balls were recovered Saturday
  • Approximately 250,000 pounds of oily debris has been recovered from shorelines
  • 11,400 feet of containment boom have been strategically deployed.

The unified command is headed by the U.S. Coast Guard and also includes officials from Orange County, San Diego County, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and Amplify Energy, the owner of the damaged pipeline that leaked the oil.

Contracted cleanup teams were working on locations from Seal Beach to San Onofre Beach.

A cleanup team at work. Courtesy U.S. Coast Guard

Meanwhile, the Oiled Wildlife Care Network reported that its responders had recovered 58 species impacted by the spill as of Sunday, 50 birds and eight fish. Twenty-six of the birds were recovered alive, but all eight of the fish were dead.

“Absolutely amazing, and makes me so proud of all we have collectively developed to respond quickly and in a coordinated fashion anywhere oil may be oiled,” said Michael Ziccardi, director of the wildlife network.

Officials said no oiled wildlife has been located in San Diego County.

The leak was reported on the morning of Oct. 2 a few miles off the Huntington Beach coast, although some boaters reported smelling something in the water Friday.

The Coast Guard’s lead investigator said the ruptured underwater pipeline might have been damaged several months to a year ago, adding that it’s unclear when the crack occurred or when oil began seeping into the water.

City News Service contributed to this article.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.