Residents and workers near the massive California oil spill questioned Monday whether authorities moved quickly enough to respond to the catastrophe.
People who live and work in the area said they had noticed an oil sheen and the stench of petroleum Friday evening — but that it wasn’t until the next day that the Coast Guard acknowledged an oil slick had been spotted off the shores of Huntington Beach.
“People were e-mailing, and the neighbors were asking, ‘Do you smell that?’ ” said Rick Torgerson, owner of Blue Star Yacht Charter in Newport Beach.
By Saturday morning, vessels were returning to the marina with their hulls covered in oil, he said.
Garry Brown, president of the environmental group Orange County Coastkeeper, slammed the Coast Guard and local officials for what he said was a lack of initial coordination in responding to the spill.
“By the time [the spill] comes to the beach, it’s done tremendous damage. Our frustration is, it could have been averted if there was a quick response,” said Brown, a resident of Huntington Beach.
Coast Guard Capt. Rebecca Ore said the agency wasn’t notified Saturday morning about the spill, which sent 126,000 gallons of crude oil into ocean waters.
“The notification the Coast Guard receives comes from the National Response Center, and that can be triggered by a number of different inputs into the system,” Ore told reporters at a press conference Monday. “And then we receive official notification that categorizes the nature of the spill and then we begin our investigative work, and we received that on Saturday morning.”
She said the agency has continued to ramp up efforts to respond to the spill, which now stretches from Huntington Beach down the coast to Laguna Beach.
“We’ve more than doubled the level of effort just since yesterday, and those numbers will go up,” she said.
Amplify Energy CEO Martyn Willsher also denied that the company, which owns the unit that operated the pipeline suspected of causing the leak, was aware of any issues before Saturday.
“We were not aware of anything Friday night. If there were reports… they did not come to us, and we did not make any report,” he told reporters.
Willsher said divers were still working to determine the source of the leak Monday.
“We have examined more than 8,000 feet of pipe, and we’ve isolated one specific area of significant interest,” Willsher said.
“There’s more information to come, but I think we’re moving very closely to a source and a cause of this incident,” he added.
With Post Wires