Cleaning up the thousands of gallons of crude oil that spilled into the Pacific Ocean off the Santa Barbara coast last month has cost more than $60 million, according to pipeline operator Plains All American, and the figure is expected to climb as the cleanup effort continues.
What’s the Problem?
June 12 – Cleanup costs have been about $3 million per day since May 19, when a ruptured pipeline spilled as much as 101,000 gallons of crude oil along the Gaviota coast, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Plains is footing the bill for more than 1,000 workers, skimming boats, ecological monitors and other resources to clean up the nearly 100-mile stretch from Gaviota to Point Mugu near Oxnard. The $60 million only accounts for cleanup costs to date; it does not include financial damage claims from individuals and businesses affected by the spill, according to Plains spokeswoman Meredith Mathews.
Santa Barbara fisherman Stace Cheverez filed a class action lawsuit against the company last week. He is seeking compensation because the oil spill forced an indefinite ban on fishing off the coast. The spill could also result in substantial fines against Plains under the Clean Water Act.
To date, about 76% of the damaged stretch of beach — mostly sandy areas that only had trace amounts of oil — have been cleaned up, officials said.
“Initially, you see a lot of progress upfront, in the first week or two, where you get the really gross oil off the water and the gross oil off the beach,” said U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Jennifer Williams. “We accomplished that. Now we are at a stage where we are doing a lot more tedious work.”
Workers are now focusing on cleaning soil, boulders and bedrock that were stained when the crude traveled from where the pipeline ruptured down a storm culvert, onto cliffs and into the ocean. Along the path, a team of workers using a crane dug down through the bedrock and removed thousands of cubic yards of contaminated soil.
Oil will be removed from the soil and the clean dirt will be recycled to make roads, Plains said. Fresh soil will be transported in as scientists plan how to restore the area.