Oil sheen contained in Talbert Channel near site of last year’s major O.C. pipeline spill during the 2015 oil spill in the Santa Barbara Channel.
A pipeline onshore and offshore exploded on Monday, spewing black smoke and a column of toxic chemicals that has caused immediate concern because of the potential for secondary pollution and the possibility of an explosion, according to the Santa Barbara County Fire and Rescue Department.
The pipeline, operated by Trans-Canada Corp., exploded at its midsection, spilling about 5,000 gallons of crude oil and other chemicals into a marsh near the beach just before 1 p.m., according to fire department officials.
The oil spill was contained in a three-mile stretch of Santa Barbara Channel onshore and offshore. The fire department is still investigating the cause of the explosion.
At 3 p.m., the oil had been contained at an initial site and was being transported to a second containment point at a more remote location, said Sgt. Dan Evans, a fire department spokesman. Both containment sites are a mile apart from the initial site.
The containment site was established in a marsh where the pipeline had recently been removed, but it was too dangerous to use, the fire department said.
About 24 hours after the initial blowout, the fire department was still trying to determine the cause.
The oil spill is the first of that size in the Santa Barbara Channel since a pipeline fire caused the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster that released millions of gallons of oil and gasoline into the nearby ocean.
While the pipeline explosion was small and contained, the extent of the oil spill cannot be assessed until the fire department finishes its investigation and the Coast Guard conducts its tests, Evans said.
The incident underscores the increasing potential for oil spills in the Santa Barbara Channel, where a high volume of oil tankers are now using the port to discharge fuel in larger quantities than ever before, along with the expansion of offshore oil and gas production facilities.
The Santa Barbara Channel spill is the second largest in the United States since 1989, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It was the first time in the past six months that a pipeline explosion caused a spill in the ocean, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.
The Santa Barbara Channel was the first U.S. coastal water to be covered by the federal Oil Pollution Act. In March 1989, an offshore oil and gas platform collapsed, allowing a tanker