Beaches Remain Closed in Manhattan Beach Due to Petroleum Product
May 27, 2015 08:39PM ● Published by DigMB Staff
A "petroleum product" washed ashore in Manhattan Beach Wednesday.
The petroleum substance that washed ashore Wednesday, closing a long stretch of coastline from the El Segundo jetty to the north all the way to Torrance Beach to the south, appeared to be waning Thursday, according to officials at a 12 noon news conference Thursday.
Though more petroleum product did not appear to be washing ashore Thursday after cleanup crews began removing the substance from the beach in Manhattan Beach, where it was first reported near 26th Street, its source continued to be a mystery.
Officials hope to have lab tests on the substance completed in the next day or so. Testing could reveal whether or not the substance comes from a tanker ship, the Chevron Refinery's offshore underwater pipeline off the coast of El Segundo, or the oil pipeline rupture in Santa Barbara County, in which a land-based pipeline spilled oil into a culvert that flowed to the ocean, resulting in more than 21,000 gallons of oil spilling into the ocean on May 19.
Officials have closed all beaches in Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, and Redondo Beach from the Lifeguard stations on the sand to the ocean. Beachgoers were advised to stay out of the water to avoid contact with the petroleum substance.
It wasn't clear if the beaches would remain closed another 5-7 days as originally stated, or if that timeframe would change as soon as it was officially determined that no more of the petroleum substance was coming ashore or in the ocean near the shore, and that bacteria levels were within safe ranges.
The entire coastline in Manhattan Beach (and later Hermosa Beach and Redondo Beach) was closed this afternoon due to clumps of petroleum product washing ashore. Though its source had yet to be determined, Michael Anderson of the U.S. Coast Guard said the petroleum product was not the result of naturally occurring seepage as determined by scientific testing. Beachgoers were asked to stay out of the ocean until officials gave the all clear.
Anderson said the Coast Guard would oversee the cleanup and continue to investigate where the petroleum product was coming from. Samples have been sent to a lab in Connecticut to see if a source can be determined and a responsible party billed for the cleanup.
The public is asked not to help with the cleanup, said Anderson, in part because if and when a responsible party is determined, the Coast Guard bills those responsible. If a member of the public has taken a bucket of the substance away, then the responsible party can't be billed for that work.
As major TV news stations and other media converged on the scene below Bruce's Beach park and at the Los Angeles County Lifeguard Station at 27th Street, cleanup crews were already at work along shore's edge.
Workers clad in white suits and gloves, grabbed the substance, placing it into plastic bags that, once full enough, were tied off. Then, a bulldozer pulled up, workers throwing the bags into its dozer. The dozer then driving across the sand to a dumpster where the bags were unloaded.
Los Angeles County Lifeguards observed the unknown substance as it hit the shore around 10 a.m. Wednesday, according to a county press release.
Anderson told DigMB nothing was being ruled out as the source of the substance washing ashore, including the recent Santa Barbara oil spill in which a 24-inch pipeline ruptured, spilling oil into the ocean off Refugio State Beach after the oil spilled into a culvert that flowed into the ocean.
Manhattan Beach Mayor Wayne Powell said he didn't think the spill to the north would be the source given that the substance hadn't washed ashore in Santa Monica or Venice, the northern part of the Santa Monica Bay. Powell also said the Chevron Refinery just north of Manhattan Beach in El Segundo said they believed they were not the source either after checking their pipeline. Chevron routinely moves petroleum products between tankers just offshore and the refinery which is on land via an underwater pipeline that has devices that monitor it for any issues.
The L.A. County Public Health department posted signs advising people to stay out of the water in the affected areas and to avoid contact with the material washed on shore, the water, and wet sand since "contact with oil may cause skin irritation and long-term health effects."
Samples of the petroleum product have been collected by the U.S. Coast Guard, the California Department of Fish & Wildlife, the L.A. County Fire Department Health Hazardous Materials Division, L.A. County Beaches & Harbors, and the County of Los Angeles Public Health department.
Cleanup was concentrated in an area from Marine Avenue to the south and 30th Street to the north. Some residents reported seeing birds eating the substance; others said they'd noticed the substance in the past few days.
Anderson said the Coast Guard's mission is to protect the environment, noting that to see it "damaged or hurt doesn't feel good to us."
Anyone with questions or concerns about the situation should call L.A. County's beach advisory hotline at (800) 525-5662 for recorded information 24 hours a day. You can also visit the county Public Health website page regarding beaches for the latest news on beach closures.