Santa Barbara spill eyed as source of tar ball invasion

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suspicion is now falling heavily on the 21-thousand gallons of crude that spilled into the ocean when a pipe ruptured near Refugio State Beach in Santa Barbara last month.

Four miles of Long Beach were reopened this morning after a two-day closure to clean up tar balls. That followed a three day closure in Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach last week.

TARBALLLong Beach Fire Chief Mike DuRee said the tar is different from what he’s seen before.

“Typically, we’ll see little bits of tar in places up and down the coast here that are kind of granular,” DuRee said. “This material had a lot of sea floor products. It was kind of an oily consistency. It seemed fresher, if you will. It had a sheen to it that was uncommon for us.”

The Coast Guard has taken samples of tar from all of the affected beaches, but tests to determine the exact source of the substance could take weeks. Meanwhile, scientists are trying to determine if wind and ocean currents could have pushed the oil from Santa Barbara all the way down to the South Bay. Some now believe that’s what’s happening.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris was in Santa Barbara to get a first-hand look at the damage from the spill. Her visit followed revelations that the ruptured pipe operated by Texas-based Plains All-American was badly corroded. Harris says her office is scrutinizing the company’s operations.sboilspill

“I’ve assigned both a team of my prosecutors to pursue whatever may exist in terms of potential criminal charges, as well as a team of our civil lawyers to look at any violations of civil law,” Harris said.

With the pipeline shutdown, Exxon Mobil is asking Santa Barbara officials to let it truck oil through the county to get it to refineries. Exxon Mobil has reduced production and has been storing oil at facility in Santa Barbara, but it’s running out of space. The company wants permission to roll trucks 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Meanwhile, the toll on wildlife from the spill continues to grow: Officials say at least 46 sea lions, 12 dolphins and 115 birds have died after being mucked by oil.