Operators of the broken Southern California pipeline dumped tens of thousands of gallons of crude oil into the ocean, not shutting it down for more than three hours — even after alerting about a potential leak, federal regulators said. .
The US Department of Transportation said Beta Offshore, which operates the pipeline, was notified of a “low pressure alarm” at around 2:30 a.m. Saturday, indicating a “probable failure.”
But it wasn’t until 6 a.m. — more than three hours later — that the pipeline was shut down, regulators said.
The timeline was outlined in a letter to the pipeline operator’s parent company, Amplify Energy Corp.
In the letter, the regulator also noted that it took “more than six hours” before the company reported the outbreak to the federal National Response Center.
Under the law, any oil spill off the US coast must be reported to the center immediately, USA Today reported.
Environmentalists and people living and working in the area have criticized the company and emergency workers over their response times, claiming that Friday night already had a heavy smell of petroleum.
However, Amplify’s CEO Martin Wilser has insisted that the company was not aware of the spill until a glow was seen on the water at 8:09 a.m. Saturday.
The spill over the weekend dumped 126,000 gallons of heavy crude off the coast of Orange County, threatening wildlife and forcing the closure of miles of beaches.
The cause of the leak is being investigated, but federal officials believe the ship’s anchor may have bent, pulled and torn the underwater pipeline.