How much oil has washed up in Laguna Beach? Officials aren’t saying

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Dozens of oil spill workers with Patriot Environmental Services were at Main Beach collecting tarballs and oiled debris on Tuesday morning. Photo by Daniel Langhorne

Local and federal officials aren’t saying how much oil and oiled debris washed up on city beaches Tuesday after onshore winds lapped the coast.

At least 60 contracted workers with Patriot Environmental Services were cleaning up the sand between the Laguna Canyon Creek outlet and Heisler Park. A pair of U.S. Coast Guard strike team members were overseeing the clean-up efforts from a makeshift parking lot for the contractor’s passenger vans at the Cobblestones.

When asked how much material was removed from city beaches Tuesday morning, a city spokesperson referred questions to the U.S. Coast Guard-led Unified Command based in Long Beach.

“We have asked for Laguna Beach specific data and have not received it yet,” city spokesperson Cassie Walder wrote in an email Wednesday.

Contracted crews and volunteers have collected 347,500 pounds of sand and oil debris across Orange and San Diego counties since the initial oil spill response, Coast Guard spokesperson Amy Stork said.

The Coast Guard couldn’t provide an estimate for how much debris was removed from Laguna Beach’s coastline.

Marine Safety Chief Kevin Snow said lifeguards continue to see some small tarballs washing up and a storm that rolled in Monday night affected more city beaches. These sightings get reported to the Unified Command’s environmental unit for a response.

“As the Marine Safety Chief, the safety of the public is always our number one concern, and a situation like this definitely presents some very unique and different safety concerns than the type we deal with on a day to day basis,” Snow said in a prepared statement.

A pair of U.S. Coast Guard strike team members were overseeing the clean-up efforts from a makeshift parking lot for the contractor’s passenger vans at the Cobblestones on Tuesday. Photo by Daniel Langhorne

Snow said he’s been amazed how his department has pulled together with public works, police, and other city departments that people don’t realize play a role in this emergency response.

On Tuesday, biologists with Blackhawk Environmental contracted by the state’s Department of Fish & Wildlife collected ocean water samples near the Main Beach playground.

Laguna Beach and county officials are concurrently testing ocean water for pollutants related to the oil spill, city officials said.

The Orange County Health Care Agency anticipated receiving the results of the testing by mid-week and will weigh in on when oily compounds no longer pose a threat to public health and safety. A series of clean tests are critical before officials reopen the water to wading and ocean sports.

Laguna Beach has also contracted environmental scientists with Rincon Consultants, Inc. to conduct its own water sampling at four locations: Crescent Bay, Main Beach, Victoria Beach at Dumond, and West Street Beach. The consultants also sampled ocean water last Friday and Monday.

Councilmember Toni Iseman said Wednesday that at the end of oil clean-up operations she wants to know what crews found on city beaches.

“This is so personal for so many people—the fact that we’re a preserve and we’re one of the few places where we are protected by the state,” Iseman said. “Up to this date, I’m very impressed by what’s happening.”

A rest area for oil spill clean-up crews was erected in front of the Marine Safety Headquarters on Tuesday. Photo by Daniel Langhorne
Biologists with Blackhawk Environmental contracted by Calif. Department of Fish & Wildlife collected ocean water samples near the Main Beach playground on Tuesday. Photo by Daniel Langhorne
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  1. Answer: I donno.

    But using the Caltrans AADT for Laguna Canyon Road and PCH a rough calculation gets you 255 TONs of vehicle tailpipe emissions dumped every day in Laguna Beach. Has the strike-team been called? Is Blackhawk Environmental cleared for landing? Is Rincon on retainer? Anybody find a tarball? Remember public safety is a top priority.

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