The barge funneled cement down into and around the wells | Credit: Harry Rabin

Efforts to plug two leaky oil wells that had plagued Summerland Beach since they were improperly abandoned many decades ago came to a happy conclusion this week. 

On Friday, November 27, while the rest of the South Coast was shaking off the effects of turkey tryptophan from the night before, a barge contracted by the State Lands Commission headed down the coast from its mooring near the Santa Barbara Harbor to cap the NorthStar well. Earlier in the month, it had completed its work on the Treadwell well.

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Funding for the $3 million operation came from SB 44, authored by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, to clean up abandoned wells and other hazards along the California coast.

Hillary Hauser, director of Heal the Ocean, described watching the barge with excitement as it did its work, “a shining beacon of hope that we’d finally get a clean beach, free of oil.” She said aerial photographs of the area already show a visibly clearer ocean thanks to the new concrete plugs in the old wellheads.

A fully-suited diver takes the plunge to prepare the wells for capping | Credit: Harry Rabin

Sunday morning, the barge pulled anchor and headed back to its home port in Long Beach. 

“They left us with a lot of gratitude in our hearts,” said Hauser.

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