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Angeles County | Long Beach

Oil Spill Flows Through Neighborhood


An oil pipeline ruptured in Long Beach early Friday, sending an estimated 10,000 gallons of black crude oil gushing onto the streets and plastering a sticky mess on cars, sidewalks and front yards.

Cleaning crews spent most of the day mopping up thick streams of oil that sent many people in the residential neighborhood packing even though the Long Beach Fire Department did not order evacuations. There were no injuries.

"The smell of petroleum is very strong," said Mauricio Castro, who was awakened Friday when the blast occurred about 9:30 a.m. in the 5800 block of Elm Avenue. "I hope it isn't going to harm us."

The oil was being pumped by Arco from its north Long Beach tank farm to a local refinery when the rupture occurred, said Art Diefenbach, superintendent of operations for Arco Pipeline Co.

Some of the oil, which coated two blocks and some side streets, got into the storm drains, but it accumulated in a catch basin that prevented it from flowing into the Los Angeles River, officials said.

The oil company dispatched vacuum trucks to suck up the crude and machines to steam-clean the streets and storm drains. Tow trucks were carting off cars parked on the street so the cleanup operation could proceed.

Cleanup crews estimated that the street would be clean and open to traffic by late Friday, but it would be another week before the neighborhood is back to normal.

No one was sure what caused the steel pipeline buried three feet underground to rupture, Diefenbach said, noting that the company would be investigating the matter.

The pipeline burst in front of the home of Jose and Maritza Borboa. Their white picket fence was turned black and their rosebushes and vegetable garden drooped under the weight of the crude oil.

"I was shaking with fear," said Maritza Borboa. "It's terrible to be living on top of what appears to be an atomic bomb that might go off any minute."

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