The biggest oil spills in California in decades – Silicon Valley

The California Coastal Commission is recording these major oil spills that caused environmental damage from southern California to the San Francisco Bay Area.

A pipeline leak in waters off Orange County that began on Saturday, October 2, 2021 spilled at least 126,000 gallons, fouling beaches and killing wildlife at the Huntington Beach Pier in Newport Beach.

Here is the commission brief history major oil spills in California as well as information on the environmental damage a spill can cause:

  • In 1969, a blowout from a Union Oil drilling rig off the coast of Santa Barbara resulted in a spill of 4.2 million gallons of crude oil into the ocean and neighboring coasts. This disaster is seen as a catalyst for the modern environmental movement.
  • In 1971, 800,000 gallons of bunker fuel spilled into San Francisco Bay, with devastating impact on local species.
  • At Huntington Beach in 1990, the US tanker Trader spilled more than 416,000 gallons of crude oil, killing approximately 3,400 birds.
  • In 2007, a container ship struck the Bay Bridge and dumped 58,000 gallons of bunker fuel in San Francisco Bay.
  • On May 19, 2015, an oil pipeline released 100,000 gallons into the ocean at Refugio State Beach in Santa Barbara County.

And here’s the commission’s explanation of why an oil spill can be so devastating to birds and other wildlife, and make seafood unfit for human consumption.

“Oil in water can be fatal to animals. The oil is poisonous when ingested. When birds have oil on their feathers, it interferes with the important waterproofing that is required to keep a bird warm. A bird can also lose its ability to float in water or to fly if covered with oil. Oiled marine mammals can suffer from hypothermia. The oil can cause reproductive problems and genetic abnormalities in fish. Contaminants can enter the food chain and produce seafood that is unfit for consumption.

Signs and duct tape close the beach where oil from a 126,000 gallon spill from an offshore rig washed up on Huntington State Beach near the mouth of the Santa Ana River in Huntington Beach on Sunday, October 3, 2021 (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register / SCNG)
HUNTINGTON BEACH, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 03: Cleaners attempt to contain oil that seeped into Talbert Marsh, home to approximately 90 species of birds, after a 126,000 gallon oil spill from a offshore oil rig on October 3, 2021 in Huntington Beach, California. The spill forced the popular Great Pacific Airshow to shut down, with authorities urging people to avoid nearby beaches. (Photo by Mario Tama / Getty Images)
HUNTINGTON BEACH, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 03: A person stands near stranded oil on Huntington State Beach after a 126,000 gallon oil spill from an offshore oil rig on October 3, 2021 in Huntington Beach, California. The spill forced the popular Great Pacific Airshow to shut down, with authorities urging people to avoid nearby beaches. (Photo by Mario Tama / Getty Images)
Clean-up crews remove oil soaked vegetation along a dam in the Talbert Marsh Wetlands in Huntington Beach on Sunday October 3, 2021 after an oil spill from an offshore rig washed up on Huntington State Beach. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register / SCNG)
HUNTINGTON BEACH, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 03: Clean-up workers (R) try to contain oil that seeped into Talbert Marsh, home to around 90 species of birds, after a 126,000 gallon spill from a offshore oil rig on October 3, 2021 in Huntington Beach, California. The spill forced the popular Great Pacific Airshow to shut down, with authorities urging people to avoid nearby beaches. (Photo by Mario Tama / Getty Images)
HUNTINGTON BEACH, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 03: Cleaners attempt to contain oil that seeped into Talbert Marsh, home to approximately 90 species of birds, after a 126,000 gallon oil spill from a offshore oil rig on October 3, 2021 in Huntington Beach, California. The spill forced the popular Great Pacific Airshow to shut down, with authorities urging people to avoid nearby beaches. (Photo by Mario Tama / Getty Images)
HUNTINGTON BEACH, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 03: A “Keep Out” sign is displayed near beached oil on Huntington State Beach after a 126,000 gallon oil spill from an offshore oil rig on October 3, 2021 in Huntington Beach, California. California. The spill forced the popular Great Pacific Airshow to shut down, with authorities urging people to avoid nearby beaches. (Photo by Mario Tama / Getty Images)
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