The operators of the ruptured Southern California pipeline that dumped tens of thousands of gallons of crude oil into the ocean didn’t shut it down for more than three hours —even after being alerted to a possible leak, federal regulators said.
Beta Offshore, which operates the pipeline, was notified around 2:30 a.m. Saturday of a “low-pressure alarm” that indicated “a possible failure,” the US Department of Transportation said.
But it wasn’t until 6 a.m. — more than three hours later — that the pipeline was shut down, regulators said.
The timeline was outlined in a letter to the pipeline operator’s parent company, Amplify Energy Corp.
In the letter, regulators also noted that it took “over six hours” before the company reported the spill to the federal National Response Center.
Under the law, any oil leaks off the US coast must be immediately reported to the center, USA Today reported.
Environmentalists and people who live and work in the area have criticized the company and emergency crews over their response time, claiming there was already a heavy smell of petroleum Friday night.
Amplify CEO Martyn Willsher, however, has insisted that the company wasn’t aware of the spill until it saw a sheen on the water at 8:09 a.m. Saturday.
The spill over the weekend dumped up to 126,000 gallons of heavy crude off the coast of Orange County, threatening wildlife and forcing the closure of miles of beaches.
The cause of the spill is under investigation, but federal authorities believe a ship’s anchor may have hooked, dragged and torn the underwater pipeline.