A ruddy duck and an eared grebe Wednesday became the first previously oiled birds from the Huntington Beach oil spill to be released back to the wild.
The birds were released at Seabridge Park beach in Huntington Beach by Oiled Wildlife Care Network personnel. They were rescued from the Orange County oil spill Oct. 4 and later cleaned and rehabilitated at the Los Angeles Oiled Bird Care and Education Center in San Pedro, according to Dr. Michael Ziccardi, director of the Oiled Wildlife Care Network.
“The first planned release of oiled animals during an incident is a joyous occasion,” Ziccardi said. “Seeing these animals in an oiled condition like the ruddy duck, whose picture was shared earlier in the response, to being a clean duck released back into the wild today is a time for celebration.”
A total of 73 birds affected by oil from the spill have been recovered, with 45 dying, the Oiled Wildlife Care Network reported Tuesday. Nine dead fish have also been recovered.
The Oiled Wildlife Care Network remains activated and is conducting surveillance for animals that may be impacted. Animals collected will be taken to the Los Angeles Oiled Bird Care and Education Center in San Pedro to receive further veterinary care and be washed by trained specialists, Ziccardi said.
Anyone encountering oiled wildlife should avoid contact and call the Oiled Wildlife Care Network at 877-823-6926 to report it.
The network consists of 40 member organizations throughout the state, including universities, scientific organizations and rehabilitation groups.
The Unified Command responding to the leak is headed by the U.S. Coast Guard and also includes officials from Orange County, San Diego County, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and Amplify Energy Corp.
The Unified Command deployed five shoreline assessment teams early Tuesday morning to survey the Orange County beaches and three cleanup teams were sent to San Diego county coastlines.
The leak was reported on the morning of Oct. 2 a few miles off the Huntington Beach coast, although some boaters reported smelling something in the water on Oct. 1.
U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Rebecca Ore estimated Thursday that roughly 588 barrels of oil had spilled, which would equate to about 24,700 gallons. That’s being considered a minimum amount leaked, with officials estimating a maximum potential of around 130,000 gallons.
The cause of the spill remains under investigation.
The spill occurred in federal waters at the Elly oil-rig platform, built to process crude oil from two other platforms, which draw from a large reservoir called Beta Field. Elly is one of three platforms operated by Beta Operating Co., which is owned by Amplify Energy and also operates Ellen and Eureka nearby. Elly processes oil production from Ellen and Eureka and is fed by some 70 oil wells. The processing platform separates oil from water.
Elly is one of 23 oil and gas platforms installed in federal waters off the Southern California coast, according to the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. Besides Elly, a processing facility, there are 20 others that produce oil and gas, and two are being decommissioned.
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