A cormorant that appeared to have been oiled made several unsuccessful attempts to fly along Goleta Beach. (July 29, 2015)

Coast Guard Lieutenant Jeremy Maginot with the Marine Safety Division notified a sizable throng of reporters representing an alphabet soup of media networks assembled at Goleta Beach that the oil slick reported early in the day was three miles in length and about a half-mile wide, headed in a southeasterly direction toward Santa Barbara. Maginot cautioned that only one-third of the area encompassed by these measurements was in fact coated in an oily layer so thin it could not be cleaned, scooped, or otherwise corralled. When the sheen was first reported at 9:58 in the morning — by a kayaker — it was estimated to be 1,000 feet from the Goleta Pier. Maginot had no more contemporary measurement of the sheen’s distance from the coast.

Likewise, Maginot said the Coast Guard, which conducted a helicopter flyover later this afternoon, could not make any determination where the sheen originated from or whether it was natural seepage or not. Samples had been collected and will be sent to a lab for “fingerprinting.” Maginot acknowledged the sheen was seen near Venoco’s Platform Holly, but he said no determination has been made that it originated there. He added that similar sheens are frequently spotted by Platform Holly.

Venoco spokesperson Aaron McLear said Venoco workers conducted a thorough inspection and concluded the oily sheen did not originate from Platform Holly. “There’s nothing interesting about this that has anything to do with Venoco,” he stated. “It didn’t originate at Holly.” McLear said Venoco has a protocol in place. First, the crew on Holly conduct a visual inspection of the platform itself and the surrounding water. Then, he said, a Venoco crew tracks the length of the pipeline from Holly to shore via boat, visually inspecting as they go. Next, company employees check all pressure gauges to see if any sudden changes have occurred. In all instances, McLear said, nothing unusual was detected.

Aaron McLear
Paul Wellman (file)

At the time of the press conference, plenty of people were using the Goleta Beach’s grassy grounds and picnic areas; there were bathers on the beach and in the water as well. Maginot said no advisory had been issued regarding swimming or boating. A kayaker from Camarillo, who said he frequents Goleta Beach for fishing, noted that the layer of oil on his kayak was thicker than normal. A visual inspection of the beach revealed a substantial smattering of large and glistening tar balls that seemed bigger, wetter, and more numerous than typical. Although County Public Health chief Dr. Takashi Wada was on hand, speaking on his cell phone, he made no statement. Conspicuous in their silence were representatives of the County Fire Department. Both county agencies were the first to respond to the event. Also present were 2nd District Supervisor Janet Wolf and representatives from the California Office of Emergency Services and the county Office of Emergency Management.

Privately, there was considerable grumbling among Santa Barbara County representatives about the slow speed with which information about the sheen had been relayed to them by the Coast Guard. Initially, they’d been led to believe there’d be an information dump at 1:30 p.m., but it was pushed back to 2:15 and then to 3:30.

No reports have been issued regarding affected birds and aquatic life, but Independent reporter Tyler Hayden observed a cormorant struggling unsuccessfully to take flight from the water. It appeared, he said, to have a tarry substance on it.


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