A reported oil sheen Saturday morning near the area of October's pipeline spill off the coast of Huntington Beach, California, had officials scrambling to investigate, but by nightfall the slick patch was nowhere to be found.
Authorities were trying determine if the reported sheen could be related to the Oct. 2 spill from a pipeline that put thousands of gallons of crude into coastal waters of Orange and San Diego counties, the U.S. Coast Guard said.
A multi-agency unified command dispatched pollution responders, aircraft and boats Saturday, but by the afternoon, the Coast Guard and the city of Huntington Beach tweeted that an oil sheen was not visible.
The Coast Guard said crews scheduled to work on the pipeline saw and reported a sheen spanning roughly 30 feet by 70 feet, and divers discovered small oil droplets near the damaged area.
Witt O’Brien’s, a risk management and emergency response firm, also reported the sheen to the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services and other agencies Saturday morning.
The firm noted the "small release" of oil was likely the result of a failed temporary clamp used in repairs associated with the original spill at oil processing platform Elly, according to a log of spill updates from the governor's emergency services office.
Shortly after, the log states that a wrap, rather than clamps, was used in the repair.
The Coast Guard later said the pipeline’s “syntho-glass wrap” had been removed and replaced, indicating that it could've been a source of the reported sheen.
"While there have been no further observations of oil droplets after the wrap was replaced and no further observations of sheen since the initial report this morning, we continue to monitor the site,” said Coast Guard Capt. Rebecca Ore, the Captain of the Port of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
The Oct. 2 spill was signaled by two reports of possible oil on the water the previous night. It wasn’t confirmed as a spill until about 12 hours later.
The Coast Guard blamed the spill on a breach in a 16-inch pipeline that carried oil from the Elly platform, about 9 miles off the coast of Orange County, to a storage facility at Port of Long Beach. The cause of the breach has not been determined.
The pipeline, which is operated by Amplify Energy’s Beta Offshore subsidiary, was shuttered indefinitely. Multiple investigations, including one by the state attorney general, are underway.
The Coast Guard has focused on the possibility that the breach was caused by an “anchor dragging” incident during a "heavy weather" event in January. The agency said last month the pipeline moved 100 feet from its original path, likely causing a breach.
In recent weeks, the Coast Guard has announced it is investigating the alleged involvement of two vessels that were close to the pipeline in January.
In the aftermath of the spill, tar balls appeared on beaches in Orange and San Diego Counties. The UC Davis Oiled Wildlife Care Network said 82 oiled birds and six mammals died. Another 34 oiled birds survived.
"While devastating, it could have been even worse," the network said in an October statement. "The spill was smaller than initially estimated."