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Oil blobs along Manhattan Beach. Photo: NBC

Oil blobs along Manhattan Beach. Photo: NBC

UPDATE as of Friday, 11:35 A.M. — The Coast Guard announced at a press conference this morning that beaches from El Segundo jetty to the Redondo-Torrance border will remain CLOSED to swimmers until further notice and testing of the blobs, water and sand is complete. Beachgoers are safe behind lifeguard towers, but are advised to avoid wet sand and the water.

UPDATE as of Thursday, 5 P.M. — Sarah Sikich, Heal the Bay’s vp and longtime staff scientist, spent the entire day on South Bay beaches checking out conditions and talking to authorities.  Here’s her eyewitness report of the latest news.

  • Thanks to ongoing cleanup, there are fewer oil globs on Manhattan Beach shorelines, but small tar balls remain scattered throughout the wrack line. Hermosa Beach had larger and more dense oil globs south of the pier. There appear to be very few globs in the wash zone and waves this afternoon, so less seemed to be washing ashore.
  • Closures are still in effect from the El Segundo Jetty to the Redondo-Torrance border. Enforcement of the closure varies along the beach. A few surfers were in the water earlier in the day at El Porto, but no one could be seen this afternoon.
  • Manhattan Beach north of the pier was desolate, and lifeguards patrolled the beach. South of the MB pier and in Hermosa Beach, lifeguards cruised the beach in trucks, talking to waders and discouraging them from playing in the water.
  • Authorities are considering opening the beaches tomorrow morning if the water samples test clear. Heal the Bay has concerns about opening the beaches and even allowing people on the sand between the lifeguard towers and water. It’s nearly impossible to walk along the beach in that area without encountering a small oil glob, and from a human health perspective, exposure through skin contact is a concern.
  • Heal the Bay recommends that the beaches stay closed until all the oil is cleaned up. We also recommend regular testing of the sand until it’s clear. (Kids are at risk of putting oil contaminated sand in their mouths).
  • Test results to determine the source could take a few days to several weeks. Testing at this point has indicated that the petroleum product washing ashore has moderate hazardous characteristics and is slightly flammable.
  • Clean up crews have collected about 30 cubic yards of oil globs so far. That’s spread over one full industrial dumpster and three partially filled ones.
  • Heal the Bay is also concerned that people displaced from closed beaches will journey to nearby beaches that may also be impacted by oil/tar blobs. Small tarball/oil globs have been found along the wrack line in Playa del Rey. Granted, it’s nothing like what we saw in Manhattan Beach yesterday, but people walking or running along the wet sand could easily encounter oil.
  • People should avoid any beaches where they notice oil (in the sand or sea) until we have more information about where this substance is coming from and its extent.

UPDATE as of Thursday, 10 A.M. — Beaches are still closed from the El Segundo Jetty to the South Redondo Beach border, while professional clean-up crews continue to remove oil globs from the beach. Beachgoers are encouraged to stay away from the wet sand, and not go seaward of the lifeguard towers. Contact with the oil may cause skin irritation, headaches from the odors, and other negative health effects. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife said that as of this morning, no wildlife issues have been reported. Water and beach samples are being taken of the oil product for identification. All potential sources are being investigated, including the local refinery and marine terminal, the Refugio oil spill, and natural sources. Authorities are doing aerial flight surveys, and two oil response vessels were in the water this morning.

UPDATE as of Wednesday, 8:11 P.M.Via L.A County Dept. of Public Health: A beach closure has been declared for the area from El Segundo Jetty to the North and the Redondo Beach city limit to the South, due to a release of petroleum effecting the area. Beach users are advised to avoid contact with the material washed on shore, the water, and wet sand. Contact with oil may cause skin irritation and long-term health effects.

ORIGINAL POST May 27, 2015 — Los Angeles’ Department of Public Health officials have closed a wide swath of South Bay beaches after an unusual and heavy concentration of oil globs washed ashore this afternoon.

A roughly 2-mile stretch of shoreline between 34th Street in Manhattan Beach and Longfellow Avenue in Hermosa Beach is now off limits while authorities begin cleanup efforts and investigate the source of the large clumps of oil and tar. The sand along the tideline is peppered with thousands of thick globs ranging in size from a baseball to a football.  Many of these globs are visible in the shallows of the ocean and in the surfline.

While many observers might think that this unfortunate incident is directly related to the recent oil spill in Santa Barbara, it is simply too early to tell where the oil came from. It is unknown if the oil is from natural seepage or from an oil spill from a local refinery or pipeline located nearby.

Initial reports do not indicate that any local wildlife visible on the shore has been harmed.

The oil was first spotted offshore around 10 a.m., came onshore around noon, and Heal the Bay started getting notifications from surfers and the general public around 1:30. The U.S. Coast Guard is coordinating cleanup and investigation efforts with state and local agencies, including the L.A. County Lifeguards and Fire Department, the California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, L.A. Beaches and Harbors, and the L.A. County Office of Emergency Management.

Cleanup and testing is underway, but no source has been identified yet. The National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Coast Guard have taken samples and will continue efforts to identify the source, including the possibility of nearby oil refineries and transportation facilities, natural oil seeps, and the Refugio spill.

In addition, NOAA is re-running its oil spill and ocean current models related to the Refugio oil spill in Santa Barbara. At the time of this posting, we are not aware that any other oil has been detected along the Malibu coastline or elsewhere in Santa Monica Bay.

For now authorities say that they do not need volunteers, but that could change. If you would like to help with any cleanup efforts that may arise, you can send your name, phone, and email information to: info@healthebay.org. We will provide you with updates and engagement opportunities as they arise.

Heal the Bay staff scientists are traveling to the affected areas and will be providing us updates through the evening and tomorrow.

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