Esther is making a comeback.
Once a man-made oil-drilling island 1 1/2 miles off the Seal Beach coast, Esther was ravaged by the severe winter storms of 1983 that destroyed much of the Seal Beach Pier. Now the rebuilding of Esther by Unocal as an oil-drilling platform is nearly complete, with operations expected to resume within a year.
But first, the City Council must approve a waste discharge permit that will allow the platform to discharge up to 1,000 gallons of treated waste water and about 4,200 barrels of drilling mud each day into the ocean.
City officials said Esther's proposed operating plans are an improvement over the operations of the old man-made island. The offshore oil-drilling facility previously sent an oil-and-seawater mixture through a pipeline to the Marina Hill community of Seal Beach. The mixture was processed into crude oil at an oil-water separation plant in the neighborhood that was formerly operated by Exxon.
Residents of the Marina Hill community last year protested against an application to restart operations at the coastal oil-water separation plant. The City Council sided with residents who feared the risk of pollution to their residential community. Council members unanimously denied Unocal permission to reopen the separation plant.
The separation of oil from seawater will now take place on the rebuilt platform, pending a review of the waste discharge permit application by the City Council on Monday.
Marina Hill residents living near the closed Exxon facility said that during January's heavy rains, their yards were coated with oil after flooding in the area. Exxon officials said they doubted that the oil came from the separation plant, which has been closed since 1983. But Exxon workers helped homeowners clean up the neighborhood.