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Slick off Surf City Closes Shoreline

Some 3 1/2 miles are briefly off-limits. Ocean-floor seepage is the suspected culprit.

October 07, 2003|H.G. Reza | Times Staff Writer

A mysterious offshore slick forced the brief closure of a good portion of the Huntington Beach coastline Monday, a few hours before Republican gubernatorial candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger was to give a political speech at the city's landmark pier.

Officials at first feared that the slick -- about 50 by 50 yards -- was caused by an oil spill because it had a rainbow sheen. But a Coast Guard investigation revealed that it probably resulted from a natural seepage of oil from the ocean floor, said Lt. Stephen LaLonde.

LaLonde said there was no evidence that the oil spilled from one of the oil platforms off Huntington Beach.

The Coast Guard and Orange County Fire Authority dispatched helicopters at 8 a.m. to investigate the slick, said LaLonde. Coast Guard officials also sent a boat to investigate.

Coast Guard crews determined that it would be difficult to contain and clean up the oily slick, which had mingled with an existing red tide.

"We've had so much red tide in that area and the slick mixed in with it," LaLonde said. "Recovering it would've been difficult."

A city lifeguard spokesman said that about 3 1/2 miles of the city's coastline, from Beach Boulevard to Seapoint Avenue near the Bolsa Chica wetlands, was closed for "a very brief period" in the morning but was open when Schwarzenegger arrived for his scheduled 1 p.m. appearance.

Earlier reports that the slick was caused by bilge pumped into the ocean by a passing ship were unfounded, the Coast Guard said.

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