Orange County Oil Spill Wildlife Rescue Response – The
Clean-up crews wearing white-hooded hazmat suits shoveled clumps of oil and tar into garbage bags and threw long booms along the California coast after a crashed pipeline on Oct. 1, spilling up to 144,000 gallons of toxic crude oil in waters a few miles from Huntington Beach, Calif. This spill is the largest of seven off the California coast as of October 12, 2021.
“The oil spill had an immediate impact on the community,” said Adam Zagorski, a beach enthusiast and longtime resident of Orange County. “But I am concerned about the long term impact on the estuarine habitats of Newport Beach and surrounding areas.” Hundreds of volunteers who share Zagorski’s concern for local wildlife flocked to the beaches to help with the cleanup and rescue efforts last week.
The Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN), the group responsible for emergency response management for wildlife, consists of 44 organizations, including regulators, academia and wildlife organizations. who work to save and rehabilitate oiled wildlife in California.
The OWCN is supported in the field by 1,600 highly trained volunteers. These volunteers follow systematic protocols, starting with recognition and information gathering. Once this information has been processed, a wildlife branch director disperses the intervention groups according to the given task. The effort is then focused on proactive capture, stabilization and rehabilitation according to the OWCN.
OWCN Director Michael Ziccardi said threats to wildlife from an oil spill include “potential injury and death to all living things in the ecosystem.” He went on to say, “We know from research and experience that even a dime-sized drop of oil on birds can have significant effects on their ability to stay warm.” This is why focusing on rapid rehabilitation by trained responders is essential to reduce these short-term effects. Ziccardi also warned of the lingering long-term consequences of this spill in more sensitive local habitats.
The organization has responded to 106 oil spills since 1995 and has recovered, cleaned up and released at least 82 animals in this recent spill alone.
The unified response team is responsible for managing the entire response and cleaning up the oil. It consists of Amplify Energy, the oil company responsible for the spill, alongside the US Coast Guard, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Orange and San Diego counties. In a statement, Unified Response advised residents against consuming seafood from offshore fisheries due to the toxicity of marine populations. A class action lawsuit for damages has been proposed by commercial fishing and seafood companies against Amplify Energy.
Amplify Energy responded to a public health inquiry stating: “Due to the toxicity of the spill, residents and visitors are advised to avoid contact with seawater and oiled areas of beaches until until they have been opened. ” Amplified Energy declined to comment on the cause of the oil spill, saying they cannot discuss the ongoing investigations.