After oil spill, each affected Southern California beach reopens to its own standards – East Bay Times

There is no uniform guideline for deciding when it is safe for people to return to waters affected by the spill of up to 131,000 gallons of oil in Orange County, leaving each municipality to decide for itself. when to reopen the beaches, according to state documents.

The state and city beaches of Huntington Beach were reopened Monday morning based on tests contracted by the state and city, but without any involvement from the Orange County health care agency. County Health is not expected to complete initial testing until midweek.

Newport Beach reopened its beaches on Monday afternoon and said on its website, “Water quality testing has shown ocean water is safe for swimmers and surfers.”

Meanwhile, the city of Laguna Beach is conducting its own testing but will work with the county to determine when to proceed, officials said.

Although they have a “unified command” to coordinate spill operations, jurisdictions are “alone” in deciding when to reopen their waters, said an email sent Friday by Brian Ketterer, chief of operations for the southern division of the state parks, several coastal municipalities.

“No consultant or county seems to provide an established standard for reopening. That means it depends on your municipality,” Ketterer wrote.

Many municipalities have contracted for their own testing to determine when water is safe for humans, Ketterer wrote.

The state and city beaches of Huntington Beach were closed late Oct. 2 after the oil spill was identified off Newport Beach and Huntington Beach.

  • Cousins ​​Anna and Valerie Bagenas, from left, laugh as they enter the water in Huntington Beach, Calif., Monday, Oct. 11, 2021. The couple were visiting from Arizona. The beach had been opened following an oil spill off the Orange County coast, but authorities allowed entry into the water starting Monday. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Registry/SCNG)

  • A lone biker rides onto Huntington State Beach in Huntington Beach on Monday, Oct. 11, 2021 after the beach reopened after the oil spill. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Cleanup crews search for oil washing up near the pier in Huntington Beach, Calif., Monday, Oct. 11, 2021, as visitors returned to the beach. The beach had been opened following an oil spill off the Orange County coast, but authorities allowed entry into the water starting Monday. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Registry/SCNG)

  • Cleanup crews search for oil washing up near the pier in Huntington Beach, Calif., Monday, Oct. 11, 2021, as visitors returned to the beach. The beach had been opened following an oil spill off the Orange County coast, but authorities allowed entry into the water starting Monday. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Registry/SCNG)

  • Laguna Beach workers continue to clean up the shoreline Monday, October 11, 2021 after a recent oil spill off Huntington Beach. (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Cleanup crews search for oil washing up near the pier in Huntington Beach, Calif., Monday, Oct. 11, 2021, as visitors returned to the beach. The beach had been opened following an oil spill off the Orange County coast, but authorities allowed entry into the water starting Monday. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Registry/SCNG)

  • Cleanup crews search for oil washing up near the pier in Huntington Beach, Calif., Monday, Oct. 11, 2021, as visitors returned to the beach. The beach had been opened following an oil spill off the coast of Orange County, but authorities allowed entry into the water starting Monday. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Registry/SCNG)

  • Even though Huntington State Beach was reopened after the oil spill, only birds populate Huntington Beach on Monday, Oct. 11, 2021. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Huntington Beach and the state Department of Fish and Wildlife contracted engineering firm Moffatt & Nichol to test the waters, which began Friday.

Huntington Beach spokeswoman Jennifer Carey said water samples taken Friday, Oct. 8, did not show unhealthy levels of petroleum-related toxins.

“They test for PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) and TPHs (total petroleum hydrocarbons),” said Carey, who said 40 sites were tested from Sunset Beach to the border with Newport Beach. “Only one site returned a detectable amount of petroleum chemicals.”

Carey said Huntington Beach was able to reopen faster than expected, in part due to wind and weather.

“The currents kind of chased the oil flow,” she said.

She also said, “There was a lot less oil than we initially thought. Estimates of the spill have dropped significantly, which is great news. »

Huntington Beach Mayor Kim Carr said the city wouldn’t have decided to reopen its shoreline without knowing it was safe to do so, and it’s sharing all of its water testing data on a new city ​​spill information website.

“We want the audience to feel comfortable,” she said. “We want them to be safe.”

Newport Beach said on its website that it tested 10 spots and “testing revealed no detectable levels of PAHs or petroleum hydrocarbons at eight of the 10 sites.” Some of the remaining oil was detected at low non-toxic levels at two locations, Wedge and Balboa Pier.

Other beaches, and in some cases the shoreline and water as well, have reopened after the spill, but it’s unclear which agencies are involved in those decisions.

Adam Stanton, a public affairs specialist with the joint spill cleanup effort (including Orange County, State Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Coast Guard), said Uniform Command has a environmental company called CTEH that takes water samples and has them tested using the Federal EPA. methods.

The U.S. Coast Guard is asking swimmers in San Diego and Orange County to be aware that changing weather and increased wave action can increase the concentration of tar balls washing up on shore. Those who see tar balls are asked to contact Coast Guard cleanup crews at [email protected]

Meanwhile, Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer called in a radio interview Monday for an inspection of all oil pipelines off the coast of Orange County.

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