Last closed beach reopens in SB oil spill zone

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oil-spill3 When a corroded pipe operated by Plains All-American burst on May 19th, a river of crude flowed into a creek that empties into the ocean at Refugio State Beach, a popular camping spot north of Santa Barbara.

Today, Refugio reopens – marking a significant milestone in the long-running cleanup process, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, which is overseeing the effort.

Officials say the initial cleanup is 98 percent complete. But that’s just the first part of the work. The next phase will involve restoring natural areas damaged by the spill.

There’s no estimate on how long that will take.$92 million, and that figure will surely rise. About 300 workers remain on the job.

More than 100,000 gallons of oil gushed out of the broken pipe, with about 21,000 gallons ending up in the ocean. It was the biggest oil spill in California in more than a quarter century.

OILSPILL1Wildlife officials say more than 200 birds and 100 marine mammals were found dead in the spill zone. Investigators are trying to determine how many of those deaths are directly connected to the leaked oil.

Meanwhile, state and federal officials continue their investigations into the circumstances of the spill. They’ve said that Houston-based Plains All-American could face criminal charges.