According to one of the first responders, the oil was leaking at a rapid rate of “a couple of hundred BMP,” or barrels per minute. Speaking to the Santa Barbara Independent after arriving at the scene, County Fire spokesperson David Zenobi said the leak, which had originated from a broken pipeline on land, had been stopped.
Aerial photos of the scene show a large oil slick forming on the surface of the ocean and on land. The US Coast Guard later estimated that around 21,000 gallons had been spilled.
The oily grease covering the ocean’s surface was estimated to be about four miles long and 50 yards wide.
A large amount of oil also collected on the beach, emitting an extremely pungent smell according to people nearby.
— Jennifer Thang (@jenniferthang) May 19, 2015
According to people on the scene, the pipe from which the oil leaked and who it belongs to is unclear as officials continue to examine the area.
County fire crews, environmental and state park officials, and the US Coast Guard were among the responders called out to the scene.
No evacuations have been reported in the area, however a family living nearby told a local TV station that they are self-evacuating because of the strong odor.
The Santa Barbara Channel was the site of a massive oil spill in 1969 that darkened much of the coast with oil and killed thousands of birds, prompting an outcry from environmentalist groups. An effort to permanently ban off-shore oil drilling in the state failed last August.