Oil found on city beaches in Laguna, skimming boats underway

Crystal Cove State Beach was closed Monday following reports of an oil sheen washing up on portions of the Laguna Beach coastline. Photo by Mitch Ridder

Laguna Beach confirmed oil from a major spill has washed up on the sand at Crescent Bay and Shaw’s Cove, a city spokesperson said Monday.

The emergency operations center started receiving reports of oil washing up on city beaches before 9 p.m. on Sunday, a city spokesperson said. All city and county beaches were closed last Sunday to prevent residents and visitors from being exposed to contaminated ocean water and fumes.

“The oil clusters range from the size of a quarter to just particle size droplets,” Laguna Beach Marine Safety Chief Kevin Snow said. “Beach closures are needed to protect the health and safety of the public and to allow contractors to begin oil cleanup.”

Crystal Cove State Beach was also closed by Monday morning. A few clumps of tar were visible on the sand (which isn’t unusual for this beach) and a light smell of petroleum is in the air.

By mid-morning in Three Arch Beach, two small signs announcing beaches were ordered closed by the Orange County Health Care Agency. A fleeting smell of petroleum was also noticeable.

A city-operated drone was flying above the coastline to surveil for additional oil sheen for a second consecutive day, Laguna Beach Marine Safety officials said. 

Although the U.S. Coast Guard-led clean-up effort is crewed by contractors, Laguna Beach officials are working to make Laguna Beach a priority because it’s home to a Marine Protected Area that’s home to a diverse biological community of fish and marine mammals.

“Like I mentioned, the entire City is a Marine Protected area, which means we have sensitive marine habitat and wildlife here that is protected, and we need resources to protect this unique ecosystem,” Snow said.

Two contracted oil recovery vessels have been working off Laguna Beach since last evening to prevent oil from coming ashore. They were underway west of Treasure Island Beach by 11:45 a.m. on Monday, according to vessel tracker MarineTraffic.

Public volunteers are not needed at this time and could hinder response efforts, a city spokesperson said. To assist with future cleanup efforts, visit cleanups.surfrider.org.

Orange County officials, in coordination with the Long Beach-based Unified Command, announced the closure of Newport Beach Harbor at 11 a.m. on Monday due to the oil spill. Boats will not be able to enter or exit the harbor. Newport Beach Harbor Department is diverting stranded boaters to Huntington Harbour and Long Beach Harbor.

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