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Manhattan Beach Tar Balls Linked to Refugio Oil Spill in Santa Barbara

Jun 22, 2015 04:55PM ● By DigMB Staff

A "petroleum product" washed ashore in Manhattan Beach Wednesday.

Weeks of speculation and testing results now show the "petroleum product" that closed South Bay beaches in Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, and Redondo Beach in late May were from the Refugio oil spill incident in Santa Barbara.

The black tar-like balls, globs, and masses first washed ashore in Manhattan Beach on Wednesday, May 27, ultimately causing the shoreline and ocean from the El Segundo jetty just north of 45th Street to the Hermosa Beach border to be off limits to beachgoers as the U.S. Coast Guard oversaw cleanup crews outfitted in protective gear.

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. May 27, according to a county press release

Later that day, as a black substance washed ashore in Hermosa Beach and Redondo Beach, those beaches were closed.

A U.S. Coast Guard spokesperson at the time said the fingerprint of the newly washed ashore "petroleum products" did not match any of the fingerprints for the naturally-occurring oil seepages in the area.

Plains All American Pipeline today said in an online statement that lab results of samples taken from the MB coastline on May 27 "indicate that two of the samples are consistent with the oil from the Line 901 release and the other four samples are consistent with samples from natural seeps in the Santa Barbara region. Results for the remaining three samples are pending."

The Plains website reports that "scientists from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts and the University of California, Santa Barbara used analytical techniques to provide chemical “fingerprints” of the tarballs, seeps and Line 901 oil. Oil fingerprinting is used to determine the source of shoreline oiling by industry, researchers and government/regulatory entities."

The "Line 901 release" refers to a land-based pipeline spill from Plains' Line 901 on May 19. The oil from the broken pipe in Sanat Barbara County traveled into a culvert that flowed to the ocean, resulting in more than 21,000 gallons of oil spilling into the ocean. Clean-up crews continue to work on the spill in Santa Barbara County.

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