A sample from the beach at Orange County's Crystal Cove tested by Unified Command turned out to be from the Refugio Oil Spill.
Courtesy Photo

Oil that leaked from the Refugio Oil Spill traveled as far south as Crystal Cove in Orange County, according to an unofficial sample tested by the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Susan Jordan, director of California Coastal Protection Network, collected tar at the OC beach while on a site visit with the California Coastal Commission in June. Shortly after, she placed a sample in a glass container in the freezer and handed it over to Unified Command for “fingerprinting,” technical analytical techniques used to determine the source of oil found on the shoreline.

Because Jordan is not a peace officer, the sample cannot be considered official or used for future litigation purposes. “For us it’s the concept that the oil did travel that far south,” said Jordan, who testified about the matter last week at the California Coastal Commission.

In June, the Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) sent out a press release stating a tar ball collected at Manhattan Beach in Los Angeles County on May 27 matched a source sample taken from the Refugio Oil Spill. In July, OSPR released an official report that stated that out of 44 samples taken from beaches on four counties in California, one sample collected at Las Varas Beach — 12 miles east of Refugio State Beach — was consistent with sources from the Refugio spill.

Plains All American Pipeline, the company responsible for the oil spill, contracted with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, UCSB, and ZymaX Forensics Laboratory to complete its own “fingerprinting.” That result reported that in the second week after the May 19 spill, oil from Line 901 reached beaches from Santa Monica to Redondo Beach, which is about 40 miles northwest of Crystal Cove. The lab results, according to Plains, showed a mix of oil from the spill and natural seeps.


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