The U.S. Coast Guard said Saturday crews observed a “light sheen” in the same area as the October leak that spilled thousands of gallons of oil into the ocean when they prepared to work on the damaged oil pipeline.
“Crews who were scheduled to conduct work on the pipeline observed and reported a sheen estimated at 30 feet by 70 feet in size,” according to a statement released by the Unified Command that includes the Coast Guard and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. “Divers conducting planned assessments of the pipeline discovered small oil droplets near the damaged area following the sheen observation.”
Previous syntho-glass wrap was removed from the broken pipeline and new wrap was replaced, officials said.
The Unified Command called pollution responders and oil spill response organization assets to respond and assess if the reported sheen was related to the pipeline, the officials said. As of around sunset on Saturday, there was no sheen observed by ships or helicopters. An on-water recovery vessel was to remain in the vicinity overnight for monitoring.
“While there have been no further observations of oil droplets after the wrap was replaced and no further observations of sheen since the initial report this morning, we continue to monitor the site,” said Coast Guard Capt. Rebecca Ore, captain of the Port of Los Angeles and Long Beach. “The Unified Command remains committed to our community and the environment.”
The Coast Guard called the sighting a “light sheen, not a slick.” Such sheens are often seen when diesel gas is spilled, the Coast Guard said.
The underwater pipeline remained shut down since the initial incident on Oct. 2.
It was determined to be the source of the rupture that spilled about 25,000 gallons of oil into the ocean, forcing the closure of beaches and harbors across Orange County.
USCG and National Transportation Safety Board investigators have identified a cargo ship named “Beijing” as a vessel involved in an “anchor- dragging incident” in January that may have contributed to the October leak.
Investigators boarded the vessel Thursday at the Port of Long Beach.
According to the Coast Guard, investigators determined the ship “was involved in a January 25, 2021, anchor-dragging incident during a heavy weather event that impacted the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.” The anchor- dragging occurred “in close proximity” to the underwater pipeline.
Beijing’s owner, Capetanissa Maritime Corp. of Liberia, and operator, V.Ships Greece Ltd., have been named “parties in interest” in the investigation, a designation that allows the companies to hire attorneys and examine witnesses in the probe of the spill’s cause.
In mid-October, the owner and operator of another ship, the MSC DANIT, were also named “parties in interest” in the investigation, also due to an “anchor-dragging incident” on Jan. 25 near the pipeline.
Authorities said earlier that the underwater pipeline had been dragged out of position, possibly by a ship’s anchor. The subsequent rupture in the pipe was discovered at the point where the pipeline had been dragged.
Authorities said “multiple pipeline scenarios and additional vessels of interest continue to be investigated.”
Updated at 8:45 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021