Cleanup, rescue of animals continues after oil spill along Santa Barbara Co. coast

GOLETA, Calif. (KTVU) - Black oil covers the coastline where more than 400 workers are joining the desperate cleanup in southern Santa Barbara County where a broken pipeline leaked as much as 105,000 gallons of oil. Hundreds more volunteers are expected to join the painstaking work Friday, scooping up contaminated soil and carrying it away bucket by bucket.

At a news conference, state officials responded to reports of wildlife being found covered in oil, saying six pelicans and one sea lion were among the wildlife rescued Thursday.

"The general public may want to help but the fact is that trying to capture wild oiled animals by people who don't have training is dangerous both to the animal as well as the people," said Dr. Mike Ziccardi, a UC Davis veterinarian and the director of the Oiled Wildlife Network.

More than 3,000 feet of booms have been rolled out to try to contain the spill with more expected Friday. The oily sheen now stretches for miles offshore.

"There are 17 vessels working on the water and they have recovered approximately 9,500 gallons of oily water mix," said Rick McMichael, the Senior Director of Operations for Plains All American Pipeline which owns the broken pipe.

Company officials say they still do not know of the cause of the broken pipe that leaked Tuesday, sending oil running through a storm drain into the ocean.

The company responded to reports on Thursday that the pipeline company had a history of 175 safety and maintenance infractions since 2006, including pump failures, equipment malfunction, pipeline corrosion, and operator error. The company has apologized and acknowledged the past spills, but says it should be in context.

"The number of reportable incidents by percentage are well within industry norms," said Patrick Hodgins, Director of Safety and Security for Plains All American Pipeline.

"Some were associated with regular maintenance, some were caused by third party damage. None of them were incidents involving injury," Hodgins told reporters Thursday.

U.S. Coast Guard Captain Jennifer Williams, the Federal On-Scene Coordinator says it's difficult to say how long the cleanup efforts will take, citing bad weather Thursday as an example of how they could face unexpected delays.

"We had to stop our skimming operations because of weather, high winds, the waves got too choppy," Williams said.

Plains All American Pipeline officials say they plan to dig up the broken pipe and send it to a third party for analysis by metallurgical experts.