Refugio Cleanup Crews Work Around Grunion Run

Annual Fish Breeding Phenomenon Prompts Caution

Perhaps least expected during the Refugio oil spill cleanup was the annual run of grunion taking place at night yesterday and today, which is causing cleanup crews to be cautious of under-sand eggs at Santa Barbara and Ventura beaches, as well as at the expanded cleanup in Los Angeles and Orange counties. (Though tests are ongoing to see if the tar balls washed ashore at Manhattan Beach last week are from the Plains spill, the company decided to send cleanup crews.) The grunion run only along Baja and Alta California coasts. As the crude spill has headed south, beach cleanup crews are also avoiding the snowy plovers nesting in Ventura.

Heavy equipment carrying oil waste, supplies, and workers have kept one lane of the 101 southbound to the west of Refugio closed from 9 a.m-3 p.m., spill responders announced. Motorists trapped in traffic there may notice an odor, the Unified Command said, which is being monitored and is not a health risk.

Among the statistics released yesterday are that of the 51.7 miles of shoreline surveyed, 40.3 miles have been affected by crude oil from the ruptured Plains All American pipeline. About 1,153 people are working in the cleanup effort, with about 100-200 at the command center, which has relocated near the airport in Goleta. Thirteen vessels are deployed, four SCAT (shoreline cleanup and assessment technique) teams are working, two helicopters out surveying, and 10,580 feet of hard and absorbent boom set out in the ocean to contain the oil. About 11,915 gallons of oily water mixture has been gathered, as well as 4,380 cubic yards of oiled sand and soil.

Dive teams have been checking for submerged oil since about May 27, when UCSB divers scanned the sea floor. They found four areas with droplets of oil in about 20 feet of water and 150 yards off the beach, as well as oil and seaweed mixtures. Sonar was used on following days in waters to 35 feet deep, and Unified Command divers returned to check the bottom with location help from knowledgeable area divers. According to Plains All American’s website, a removal plan was being formulated for the area between Refugio and El Capitan, but by June 1, no oil was found on the bottom. The visible oil was close to the shoreline, being churned up by the waves onto the beaches. The cleanup goes on, with rocks being scrubbed as well.


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