The underwater pipeline that caused a major oil spill off the coast of Southern California was likely initially damaged by a ship’s anchor “several months” ago, before the leak began, said a Coast Guard official.
The anchor of a large vessel may have recently struck the massive pipeline, shattering the concrete casing, but didn’t likely cause the crack that spewed tens of thousand of gallons of crude last weekend, Coast Guard Capt. Jason Neubauer, the chief of the office of investigation and analysis, said at a press conference Friday.
“This event could be multiple incidents and strikes of the pipeline after that initial event that we’re pretty confident occurred several months to a year ago,” he said.
Investigators made their determination based in part on marine growth on the pipeline spotted in an underwater survey.
Officials have yet to identify ships that may have been involved in the damage.
“We’re going to be looking at every vessel movement over that pipeline, and every close encroachment from the anchor just for the entire course of the year,” Neubauer said.
At least 126,000 gallons of crude spilled into the waters off Orange County a week ago when boaters began reporting a sheen in the water, officials said.
“I don’t expect it to be more. That’s the capacity of the entire pipeline,” said the CEO of Amplify Energy, the Houston company that owns the pipeline. He said the pipeline was suctioned out and dozens of nearby oil platforms operated by Amplify were shut down.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said in a statement that the spill “serves as a reminder of the enormous cost fossil fuels have on our communities and the environment.”
The Coast Guard’s full press conference can be seen in the video up top.