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Scientists Coordinate Research with Responders in Santa Barbara Oil Spill

One of the most significant outcomes of the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) has been the fostering of a multi-disciplinary collaborative academic community ready to put science into practice.

Members of the GoMRI community have been cultivating relationships with emergency responders so that science gets to the right people at the right time.

These efforts have helped scientists provide support to responders by tracking contaminants, conducting chemical analysis, and monitoring affected environments. Since the 2010 Gulf oil spill, scientists affiliated with GoMRI have provided research support for several hydrocarbon-related incidents, including the 2012 oil sheen near the Deepwater Horizon site, the 2013 Hercules gas blowout, the 2014 Galveston Bay oil spill, and now the Santa Barbara county oil spill.

The Incident

The spilled crude oil flowed through an open drainage pipe, tunneling under Highway 101 onto the beach. (Photo by Anna James, University of California Santa Barbara)

On May 19, a 24-inch wide oil pipeline belonging to the Plains All American Pipeline ruptured and was leaking crude oil along the shore side of Highway 101 at Refugio Beach, Santa Barbara County, California. The Refugio Incident Report stated that an estimated 500 barrels (21,000 gallons) of crude oil was released that then flowed into the Pacific Ocean. The oil was traveling from an above-ground storage tank facility in Las Flores to refineries throughout southern California via the pipeline. The Coast Guard established a unified command for response with local, state, and federal agencies, clean-up contractors, and industry personnel. See a map of the impacted area here and an updated status from the NOAA Office of Response and Restoration here.

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