Huntington Beach oil spill killing animals, expert says

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. — A major oil spill has reached Orange County beaches and sensitive wildlife areas, with reports of fish and birds being found dead and experts anticipating “many, many” more will be killed.

In an interview with FOX 5 sister stop KTLA, Heal the Bay CEO Dr. Shelley Luce said the oil — leaking from a platform called Elly near Long Beach — is “highly toxic.”

“We already have reports of dolphins being seen swimming by the oil slick. They can’t get away from it quickly. And now it has reached land,” Luce said. “This is a toxic spill. And many, many animals are going to die. And many more than we can count, because they will occur at sea.”

Luce pointed out that in addition to larger animals, the oil can impact life at the micro level, including plankton, which form the lowest rung on a food chain that leads all the way to humans.

Huntington State Beach is home to a number of species of birds, including gulls, willet, long-billed fletcher, elegant teens and reddish egret, which are a rarity on the West Coast, according to Ben Smith, a biologist and environmental consultant for Orange County. Of particular concern: sensitive habitats such as the Talbert Marsh and Bolsa Chica Wetlands.

at the minimum 126,000 gallons of oil had spilled as of Sunday morning, according to the city of Huntington Beach, though Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley said that number could become considerably larger because the leak had not been thoroughly stopped overnight.

Foley told KTLA she was in touch with workers from the state’s Fish and Wildlife Department who told her they had found dead fish and birds by early morning.

The oil covered an area of approximately 18 square-miles as of Sunday morning. Beta Operating Company, which runs the Elly rig, will be responsible for compensating boaters whose character was damaged by the oil, Foley said. The company produces further legal responsibility for cleanup efforts, Foley additional, but the exact ramifications for the operator weren’t closest clear.

The spill led to the cancellation of the Pacific Airshow and extensive beach closures from Huntington Beach south to Newport Beach.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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