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Oil, tar from O.C. spill wash ashore in San Diego County

Small amounts of oil and tar washed ashore as far south as San Diego County on Thursday as cleanup and recovery efforts accelerated following the oil spill along the Orange County coast.

Officials said they’ve made progress in the cleanup and hope to advance even further over the weekend. But a storm that meteorologists say could bring 20-mph winds to the region is moving in, raising concerns that more oil could reach the shores. So far, much of the crude has remained offshore, but striations have been seen in Huntington Beach and Laguna Beach.

More than 800 people have been clearing oil from Sunset Beach in Huntington Beach to Carlsbad. By the end of the week, officials expect to ramp that number up to 1,500.

A pollution-control vessel has been working off the Huntington Beach coast where a plume of oil has lingered since the spill. Two other vessels were tackling another slick that has slowly moved south over the past four days and is now off the coast of San Clemente, maps show.

More than 5,500 gallons of crude oil have been recovered and 12,860 feet — almost 2½ miles — of containment boom have been deployed to protect beaches, according to the Coast Guard.

As the oil is exposed to the sun, wave action, tides and currents, its behavior and characteristics change, said Rebecca Ore, commander of the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Los Angeles-Long Beach.

“Our overflights are continuously monitoring what that offshore condition looks like and what the oil looks like, and we are seeing trends that indicate … lighter sheen and less heavy oil,” she said.

North of the Huntington Beach Pier on Thursday morning, a worker in a white hazmat suit picked up a quarter-sized clump of oil, lifted it to his nose and sniffed. Recognizing the smell of crude, he used a gloved hand to lower the tar ball into a plastic trash bag.

He was one of 60 people combing the shore of Huntington State Beach. Some carried orange nets called screeners, which allowed them to sift oil while leaving the sand intact. Others, poised like human derricks, were stooped over and picking up the crude by hand.

The crews have made progress cleaning the stretch of beach over the past five days. Signs of the black rings and clumps of crude that littered the shore following the weekend spill have started to disappear.

“Make sure you’re checking under the leaves!” one worker yelled, turning a piece of kelp over in his hands.

Crews are also surveying the coast in search of wildlife disturbed by the spill. As of late Wednesday, they had recovered 19 live oiled birds: six western grebes, five snowy plovers, a sanderling, an eared grebe, an American coot, a ruddy duck, a double-crested cormorant, a clark’s grebe, a California gull and a brown pelican. Three double-crested cormorants, an American coot and a western gull were found dead, according to the Oiled Wildlife Care Network.

A video of the seafloor off the Orange County coast this week shows damage to an oil pipeline that sent up to 131,000 gallons of crude into the ocean, fouling beaches and threatening ecologically sensitive wetlands.

The footage, taken by a remotely operated vehicle on Monday, appears to show a portion of the 4,000-foot section of the nearly 18-mile oil pipeline that had been displaced. Divers reported and video showed a 13-inch split along the concrete-encased, steel pipe’s length, according to the joint unified command overseeing the response to the spill.

Martyn Willsher, president and chief executive of the pipeline operator’s parent company, Amplify Energy Corp., described the force as pulling the pipe in an almost “semicircle.”

“The pipeline has essentially been pulled like a bowstring,” he said.

Federal sources told The Times this week that the displacement could best be explained by a ship’s anchor dragging across the ocean floor and hooking the pipeline, which runs from the Port of Long Beach to an offshore oil platform known as Elly.

There were multiple large cargo vessels in the immediate area of the leak before the oil was spotted.

On Thursday evening, lawyers gathered in Huntington Beach to announce the first class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of Orange County business owners seeking damages related to the spill.

The first plaintiff in the suit is Banzai Surf School, which has operated in Huntington Beach for 12 years and is located in “what, for all intents and purposes, has become ground zero for the spill,” said owner Jaz Kaner.

Kaner estimates that his surf school will lose tens of thousands of dollars in the first week of October, a month he called “prime time for surfing in California.”

Mike Ali, owner of Zack’s, an oceanside rental shop in Huntington Beach, said his family’s business will suffer.

“It’s devastating — mentally,…

Read More: Oil, tar from O.C. spill wash ashore in San Diego County

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