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Beaches are closed and cleanup is underway after oil spill off Southern California destroys wildlife habitats

An oil pipeline off the coast of Southern California has spewed more than 100,000 gallons of oil into the Pacific Ocean, coating local wildlife habitats, shutting down a swath of popular beaches and potentially harming human health.

The leak in the pipeline appears to have stopped and oil removal efforts are underway, officials said Sunday. The breach, reported Saturday, occurred about 5 miles off the coast of Huntington Beach in Orange County, spilling the equivalent of an estimated 3,000 barrels — or 126,000 gallons — of post-production crude, local officials said. Divers have been inspecting the 17-mile pipeline, hoping to find its exact source. The leak’s cause remains unknown.

By Sunday night, about 3,150 gallons of oil had been removed from the water and over a mile of oil boom — floating barriers designed to contain an oil spill — were deployed, the US Coast Guard said at that time. “Fourteen boats conducted oil recovery operations Sunday afternoon,” the Coast Guard said. “Four aircraft were dispatched for overflight assessments. Shoreside response was conducted by 105 government agency personnel.” The spill has done significant damage already, Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley told CNN on Monday.

“This has devastated our California coastline in Orange County, and it’s having a tremendous impact on our ecological preserves as well as our economics,” she said. “We need answers and the public deserves answers.” A day earlier, dead birds and fish were washing up on the shore, Foley said. “The oil has infiltrated the entirety of the (Talbert) wetlands. There’s significant impacts to wildlife there,” she said Sunday. “These are wetlands that we’ve been working with the Army Corps of Engineers, with (a local) land trust, with all the community wildlife partners to make sure to create this beautiful, natural habitat for decades. And now in just a day, it’s completely destroyed.”