After the oil spill, each southern California beach affected reopens using its own standards
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.
Beaches in the state and city 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 its initial testing until midweek.
Newport Beach reopened its beaches on Monday afternoon and said on its website: “Water quality tests have shown the ocean water is safe for swimmers and surfers to return.”
Meanwhile, the city of Laguna Beach is conducting its own tests but will work with the county to determine when to proceed, officials said.
Despite having a “unified command” to coordinate spill response operations, jurisdictions are “on their own” to decide when to reopen their waters, an email from Brian Ketterer said on Friday, chief of operations of the southern division of state parks, at several coastal areas. municipalities.
“No consultant or county seems to provide a set standard for reopening. That means it’s left to your municipality, ”Ketterer wrote.
Many municipalities have contracted for their own testing to determine when the water is safe for humans, Ketterer wrote.
Beaches in the state and town of Huntington Beach were closed at the end of October 2 after the oil spill was identified off the coasts of Newport Beach and Huntington Beach.
Huntington Beach and the State Department of Fisheries and Wildlife contracted engineering firm Moffatt & Nichol to test the waters, which began on Friday.
Huntington Beach spokeswoman Jennifer Carey said water samples taken on Friday October 8 did not show unhealthy levels of petroleum-related toxins.
“They test for PAHs (Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons) and TPH (Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons),” said Carey, who said 40 sites were tested from Sunset Beach to the border with Newport Beach. “Only one site returned any detectable amount of petroleum chemicals. “
Carey said Huntington Beach was able to reopen faster than expected in part because of the wind and weather.
“The currents kind of drove the flow of oil out,” she said.
Further, she said: “There was a lot less oil than we originally thought. Estimates for the spill have dropped significantly, which is great news. “
Huntington Beach Mayor Kim Carr said the city would not have reopened its shoreline without knowing it was safe to do so, and it is sharing all of its water analysis data on a new city spill information website.
“We want the public to feel comfortable,” she said. “We want them to be safe.”
Newport Beach said on its website that it had tested 10 points and that “the tests did not reveal any 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. “
More beaches, and in some cases shoreline and water, have reopened after the spill, but it’s unclear which agencies are involved in those decisions.
Adam Stanton, a public affairs specialist for the joint spill cleanup effort (including Orange County, State Fish and Wildlife, and the U.S. Coast Guard), said the Uniforms Command had a environmental company called CTEH that took water samples and had them tested using the federal EPA. methods.
The U.S. Coast Guard is asking bathers in San Diego and Orange County to be aware that changing weather and increased wave action can increase the concentration of tarballs washing up on shore. Those who see tarballs are urged to contact Coast Guard cleanup crews at [email protected]
Meanwhile, Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer on Monday called in a radio interview to inspect all pipelines off the coast of Orange County.