Echoes of 1969 in the Santa Barbara oil spill

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Professionals cleanup crews are at the beach. Volunteers are being asked to stay away from the harmful oil until the scene is safe to help. Photo by Jason Groman

Cleanup continues along the central California coast, after a broken crude oil pipeline Tuesday ruptured and spewed oil down a storm drain and into the Pacific Ocean.

Vessels have deployed three sets of floating booms to try to keep the two slicks from spreading, while other boats are skimming oil from the sea surface.

Officials say up to 105,000 gallons may have leaked out, and about 21,000 gallons may have reached the sea.

Crude was flowing through the pipe at 84,000 gallons an hour when the leak was detected yesterday. It took three hours to shut down, though company officials didn’t say how long it leaked before it was discovered, or how fast it was leaking.

Meanwhile, the Western States Petroleum Association says it’s monitoring and will examine exactly what happened in the pipeline break, to avoid future incidents.

There have been other spills off the Central coast over the years, one of which happened 46 year ago that residents still remember.

Paul Relis founded the Community Environmental Council in 1970, a year after that catastrophic spill in 1969. He spoke to KCRW’s Steve Chiotakis about how that spill helped spark the American environmental movement.