County seeks to recover $1.8M from Chevron for 2022 Talbert Channel oil leak cleanup - Los Angeles Times

A construction crew working for Orange County’s Public Works Department was strengthening the flood control capacity of the Talbert Channel in Huntington Beach on Oct. 6, 2022, when workers noticed a sheen on the surface of the water.

Just one year earlier, 25,000-gallons of crude oil spilled from a ruptured pipeline connection to an offshore platform, reaching Huntington Beach’s coastline and threatening wildlife near Talbert Marsh, just 2 miles away from the channel work site. Center Joint

County seeks to recover $1.8M from Chevron for 2022 Talbert Channel oil leak cleanup - Los Angeles Times

Was this the start of another spill? County officials responded immediately to contain what was determined to be oil that had leaked from an abandoned line near Huntington Beach’s Sowers Park when a contractor struck a nonpressurized line underground.

An emergency response team was assembled as representatives from the U.S, Environmental Protection Agency, California Department of Fish & Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response consulted with the county’s Public Works Department to manage cleanup.

OSPR is responding to an oil spill in the Talbert Channel, Huntington Beach. Crews working to replace steel plate walls noticed light sheening. Due to the brownish milky characteristics of the oil officials believe it may be from an abandoned pipeline. No oiled wildlife observed.

Stepping in to assist the effort were representatives from Chevron Corp., which initially owned and operated the now-abandoned pipe.

“As local pipeline experts with historical operating knowledge of the area, Chevron volunteered to participate in the unified command [response],” Public Works spokesman Shanon Widor wrote in an email Friday.

An oil-spill containment crew from Los Angeles-based Patriot Environmental Services was called to the scene, where members installed floating booms upstream and downstream of the sheen, from Indianapolis Avenue southward to Hamilton Avenue.

The section of the abandoned line that had been the source of the leak was excavated and capped to prevent further seepage, and remaining oil within the line was removed.

Even after the work was complete, a county hazmat team conducted air monitoring while environmental staff were deployed to the site overnight to monitor conditions in and around the channel.

County officials, who are continuing to monitor the channel, estimate the total response cost $1.8 million. However, when they reached out to Chevron to discuss remuneration for the cleanup effort, no real response was given.

The Orange County Board of Supervisors in November retained the services of Costa Mesa legal Firm Ring Bender, LLC, whose attorneys successfully assisted the county in a lawsuit against Houston-based Amplify Energy following the October 2021 oil spill.

In a closed session meeting Tuesday, supervisors unanimously agreed to pursue litigation against Chevron and any other responsible parties for the cost of last year’s work.

Supervisor Katrina Foley said leaders know, based on their experience from the Amplify spill, that the owner and operator of faulty infrastructure was liable for costs associated with pipeline removal, oil cleanup and other mitigation efforts.

“We requested Chevron reimburse taxpayers for this. [But] we have not heard from them. They didn’t leave us a choice,” Supervisor Katrina Foley said in an interview Thursday. “We don’t think taxpayers should have to be responsible for a private oil company’s pipelines.”

The Talbert Channel is a tidally influenced flood control channel that runs downstream from the Fountain Valley Channel into the Talbert Marsh which, along with neighboring wetlands, provides a habitat and migratory rest stop for thousands of birds and other sensitive species.

Although the October 2022 incident was contained to the channel and did not result in any known impacts to wildlife at the marsh, Foley recognized its ecological significance, saying channel waters “need to be kept as clean as possible.”

As of Friday, an official legal complaint had not yet been filed by the county’s attorneys. Foley expressed hope some sort of agreement could be reached before matters went to court.

“Our goal is to work things out,” she said Thursday. “Nobody wants to go to trial.”

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Sara Cardine covers the city of Costa Mesa for the Daily Pilot. She comes from the La Cañada Valley Sun, where she spent six years as the news reporter covering La Cañada Flintridge and recently received a first-place Public Service Journalism award from the California News Publishers Assn. She’s also worked at the Pasadena Weekly, Stockton Record and Lodi-News Sentinel, which instilled in her a love for community news. (714) 966-4627

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County seeks to recover $1.8M from Chevron for 2022 Talbert Channel oil leak cleanup - Los Angeles Times

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