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Beaches reopen at Huntington Beach and Newport Beach as oil spill investigations begin


Surfing is back in Surf City.

Beaches in the city and state of Huntington Beach reopened Monday morning, more than a week after an offshore spill dumped up to 131,000 gallons of oil off the county’s coast of Orange.

Huntington City Beach, Huntington State Beach, and Bolsa Chica State Beach were all fully open at 6 a.m. on Monday. Previously they were in a “soft close” as residents and visitors could get on the sand, but the water and the shore were closed.

Newport Beach followed suit, opening its city beaches at 2 p.m. Monday.

Huntington Beach and California State Parks brought in a local independent contractor, Moffatt and Nichol, based in Costa Mesa, to test 40 different sites along the coast and in wetlands, from the Santa Ana River Pier north to ‘at Sunset Beach.

On Monday, visitors play in the sand as a group of waste management staff clean up Huntington Beach near the pier.

(Scott Smeltzer / Personal Photographer)

All samples were tested for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPH), Huntington Beach spokeswoman Jennifer Carey said to determine oil levels in the ocean. Oil was only detected at one of 40 sites – a non-toxic amount was found in the water just north of Warner Avenue, near the divide between Sunset Beach and Bolsa Chica State Beach.

“It could have been from a ship that had just passed,” said the Orange County superintendent of California State Parks. Kevin Pearsall said. “You just don’t know. Considering 40 spots were tested and all but one came out very healthy with no contaminants at all… that was a big factor for everyone involved in deciding it was ready to open. We’re just very careful. We have a lot of tarball education announcements. We’ve been seeing the tarballs for months, we’re told.

A visitor to Salt Lake City's Huntington Beach walks into the water as a waste management worker combs the beach for oil.

Brendan Park, right, of Salt Lake City, Utah, prepares to enter the water as a waste management worker combs the beach for oil in Huntington Beach near the pier Monday.

(Scott Smeltzer / Personal Photographer)

Huntington Beach Mayor Kim Carr said testing will continue twice a week at the sites, for at least the next two weeks. All test results are published on the Oil Spill Information Webpage. Overflights will also continue to check for the presence of oil.

If people find a tar ball, they are asked not to pick it up, but rather email the beach clean-up crews at [email protected]

“Here in Surf City, our beaches and our ocean are essential to our tourism, our businesses and our overall livelihoods,” Carr said. “It was important for us to reopen our beaches as quickly as possible, but in a responsible manner, based on data and public safety. ”

In Newport Beach, city waters opened nine days after being closed. City spokesman John Pope said 10 sites affected by the spill were analyzed by Eurofins Calscience, an independent laboratory, after being collected on Friday. They did not show unhealthy levels of petroleum-related toxins.

Still, concerns remain about the spill. A press conference was held Monday afternoon at Talbert Marsh, where large amounts of sea foam collected on the shore edges. A sand berm was removed over the weekend to bring fresh water to the area.

John Villa, executive director of the Huntington Beach Wetlands Conservancy, said tests have been carried out on the moss and is awaiting the results.

The investigation is also continuing into the spill itself. California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon on Monday announced the formation of the Assembly’s select committee on the oil spill, chaired by local MP Cottie Petrie-Norris.

Petrie-Norris said the committee is expected to hold its first meeting by early November.

A surfer walks past a line of waste management personnel searching for oil in Huntington Beach, near the pier.

On Monday, a surfer walks past a line of waste management personnel searching for oil in Huntington Beach, near the pier.

(Scott Smeltzer / Personal Photographer)

At a separate press conference Monday in Huntington State Beach, California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced an investigation into the oil spill.

“We are investigating, we are determining whether the civil execution is justified and appropriate, and whether the criminal execution is justified and supported by the facts,” Bonta said. “Federal entities and county and local jurisdictions can also do something similar. It depends on what the facts are first and what the “this” is – who did what when? We’re still trying to figure out what it is.

Editor-in-chief Sara Cardine contributed to this story.

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Mary Cashion

The author Mary Cashion