As many as 105,000 gallons of oil have been spilled near Refugio Stage Beach west of Santa Barbara after an 11-mile-long, 24-inch pipeline ruptured on Tuesday, May 19th, creating a sheen of oil over nine miles wide. The pipeline’s operator, Plains Pipeline, has three times as many incidents per mile of pipe than its competitors. According to a federal database, the company has more maintenance infractions than at least 99.8% of other pipeline operators.
Reported infractions have included operator error, equipment malfunction, pipeline corrosion, pump failure, poor record keeping, failure to complete repairs, and failure to install equipment that could prevent pipe corrosion. Plains Pipeline’s parent company, Plains All American Pipeline, makes $43 billion annually.
According to the company, workers manually shut down the pipeline after noticing irregularities. The company confirmed the leak about two hours later. The Coast Guard stopped the pipeline leak around 3 p.m. Tuesday. The oil has been washing up on nearby beaches and has killed undisclosed numbers of sea life in the area. Environmentalists are also worried that the oil spill could affect migratory whales. It’s estimated that oil cleanup vessels have recovered less than 8,000 gallons of oily water.
See some pictures of the oil spill here.