Environment & Science

California releases report on Refugio oil spill response

File: Local residents stand on oil covered rocks and sand at Refugio State Beach in Goleta, California, May 19, 2015.
File: Local residents stand on oil covered rocks and sand at Refugio State Beach in Goleta, California, May 19, 2015.
Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife's Office of Spill Prevention and Response released an internal report Tuesday evaluating its response to the Refugio oil spill in Santa Barbara. The purpose of the report was to analyze how the oil cleanup has progressed, methods to improve their effectiveness for a future event and how the agency worked with federal and local partners after the spill, the agency's Amy Norris told KPCC.

Since the spill in May 2015, which spread miles off the coast, federal regulators have determined that corrosion on the outside of an oil pipeline was the cause of the spill of up to 101,000-gallons

This is the biggest response to a crude oil spill since the San Francisco spill in 2007, Norris said.

The agency’s analysis showed that although they were able to mobilize quickly after the initial spill and the subsequent cleanup, parts of their procedure needed improvement.

“Overall, we felt like the response was quick and fairly thorough [after] the initial oil spill. But again, any time you’re in a situation like this, we want to look at ways that we can improve, and what we’re looking at going forward is just to be able to establish public communication a little bit earlier so the public is fully informed and is aware about how they can help out,” Norris said.

Many local residents volunteered to help, but there wasn't enough staff to coordinate and educate them on what to do, she said — like how to handle wildlife with oil on them.

“That kind of communication would really help us focus the positive response of the public to help out in the situation,” she said.

The report also found that social media would be an effective tool in communicating with the public and letting people know what is needed. The report indicated that more efficient methods of collecting information could also be used.

“When the responders are out on the beach collecting information, they were using kind of a last-century sort of method, I guess you could say, in that they were writing information down, and so we really need to engage technology to allow them to enter information into a system that’s going to give real-time feedback to the people back at command to know exactly what’s going on,” she said.

If no more matches from the original oil spill samples are found on current tar balls found on the beach, Norris said, the state’s participation will be considered closed.