Oil spill seeps into OC coastal wetlands, a vital link along the migratory bird route
The stench of oil permeated the air of Huntington Beach’s Talbert Marsh on Sunday as crews in small boats and sealed inside protective uniforms lifted absorbent pads laden with oil as thick as the mixture of brownies in brownies. plastic bags.
A day after a broken pipeline spat about 130,000 gallons of post-production crude off the Orange County coast, they were part of an effort to clean up the oil that had gushed out in a two-mile collar. from delicate coastal marshes – Talbert, Brookhurst, Newland and Magnolia – to high tide early Sunday morning.
At 10 a.m., a rainbow of oil and sticky slabs 6 feet in diameter receded against yellow dams set up in seven locations to facilitate cleanup and preserve the wetlands that remain a vital link along the migratory bird route called the Pacific Flyway, which birds travel from North America to South America.
City workers and rescuers also prepared public beaches for the possible arrival of more oil, collecting kelp and other materials that could interfere with the cleanup.
The scale of the event was an agonizing sight for beach goers, including Bill Grimes, 63, who kept his eyes peeled for dead birds and washing fish as he waved a metal detector on the sand.
“When are people going to wake up and find out that drilling off Southern California is crazy?” He muttered.
The incident is being handled by a unified command team led by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the US Coast Guard, Orange County, and the company responsible for the spill, Amplify Energy of Houston, according to Eric Laughlin, spokesperson for the U.S. state wildlife. authorities.
Orange County firefighters have deployed floating barriers called booms in an attempt to stop further incursions into the waterways. But the oil had already killed or poisoned countless birds, fish and mammals, robbing their habitat for perhaps years to come.
A team from the UC Davis Oiled Wildlife Care Network has been mobilized for all necessary rescue and rehabilitation work.
Wetlands support a surprisingly dynamic ecology. The brackish ponds on Sunday were teeming with great blue herons, brown pelicans, double-crested cormorants and western gulls preening along the oil-stained brown shores. Butterflies flew over the knee-deep grass soaked in oil. Terns rushed to pick up small fish in the polluted tidal currents.
Dave Guido, chairman of the board of directors of the Huntington Beach Wetlands Conservancy, a nonprofit organization dedicated to research and conservation work, walked the boundaries of Talbert Marsh, taking stock of the crews’ progress in cleaning up the worst oil flood since 1990, when tanker American Trader threw nearly 400,000 gallons of crude into the ocean. The ship apparently pierced its hull on its anchor as it docked about 1.5 miles off the shore of Huntington Beach.
Yesterday and today, oil that spilled into the sea spilled into Talbert Marsh through an entrance under the Pacific Coast Highway designed to cool wetlands with the tidal currents necessary for their plants and their plants. animals complete their life cycle.
“Talbert Marsh bears the brunt of these oil spills,” Guido said, shaking his head. “Once again, the resilience of its birds and its fish nursery is being tested. “
The installation of booms across key canals in the wetlands was initially hampered by the strength of the tidal currents, officials said. But on Sunday morning, team boss Manuel Perez looked at the surface of Talbert Marsh Lagoon along the Pacific Coast Highway and said: “Things are starting to look a lot better than they used to be. several hours ago. “
Yet under the waves it’s a murkier story.
Studying the effects of the BP oil spill in 2010 on bluefin tuna spawning in the Gulf of Mexico, a research team found that polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, block “signaling pathways” that allow ions potassium and calcium enter and exit the heart. cell membranes and maintain a normal heart rate.
Even very low concentrations of crude oil can disrupt these signaling pathways, slowing the rate of the heartbeat. Their study also suggests that cardiotoxicity of PAHs was potentially a common form of injury in a wide range of species near oil spilled in productive ocean ecosystems.
“It may take weeks or even months before we begin to understand the impacts of this spill,” Guido said.