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Crews Continue Mop-Up of Placentia-Area Oil Spill

January 02, 2002|MONTE MORIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Cleanup crews worked all day Tuesday mopping up a Placentia oil spill that leaked 400 to 800 gallons of crude into storm drains, creeks and the Santa Ana River, soiling a handful of birds and miles of vegetation.

By Tuesday evening, state officials reported that nearly 80% of the spill had been cleaned up but said the job will be completed no sooner than Friday.

"Will we get it all? I'd have to say, 'No,' " said Lt. Mark Caywood of the California Department of Fish and Game's Office of Spill Prevention and Response. "We're working real hard, though, to pick up as much of it as we can."

The spill, which originated near an oil field in the 1400 block of Garcia Place in Placentia, was discovered about 10 a.m. Sunday. The slick traveled southwest about four miles, through storm drains and creeks, before the bulk of it was contained in north Anaheim at Carbon Creek and the Atwood Channel. Some of the oil reached the Santa Ana River farther south in the form of a bright sheen roughly 100 yards long.

Officials said the spill came within yards of Orange County Water District holding ponds. "I'd say this spill will have a negligible effect on any ground-water situation," said Ron Wildermuth, spokesman for the water district.

Injured wildlife included two grebes and a mallard that were found "heavily oiled" and sent to a wildlife station for cleaning up and care. "They're still alive and being treated," Caywood said. "We got to them pretty quickly."

That was not the case for at least two egrets that were seen spotted with oil near the cleanup. They have so far eluded capture.

"In order to treat them, we have to catch them," Caywood said. "The egrets haven't necessarily signed on to that plan yet."

Environmental officers will have to wait until the birds become ill and cannot escape before they can be sent to the Oil Wildlife Care Network station in San Pedro, he said.

The cleanup involves about 60 people, mostly private contractors. In addition to the birds, roughly 100 cubic yards of vegetation were soiled. Workers must cut down the damaged plants and haul them away.

The cause of the spill remains under investigation, but authorities said it appears that a pipeline that gathers oil at a drilling site overflowed. Benchmark Corp. of Placentia, which owns the oil field, is participating in the cleanup and will be required to help pay for it, Caywood said. A cost estimate was not available Tuesday night.

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