As the oil cleanup continues, the cause for the spill is now under investigation. 

On Oct. 1 a massive oil spill off the Orange County coast sent beaches in the area into lockdown. California’s justice department is investigating the spill that sent thousands of gallons of oil into the ocean. 

The spill, which appeared from a leak in an underwater pipeline from the offshore oil rig Elly, was first sighted by boaters and residents of Newport Beach. They reported a strong smell of petroleum in the air as well as an oily sheen on the water that afternoon. 

The following morning around 10 a.m. the Oxnard-based oil and gas company DCOR reported the appearance of oil on the ocean’s surface moving East from Huntington Beach. 

The California Coast Guard confirmed the spill at 12:15 p.m. The oily residue on the water’s surface was miles wide and crude washed up along the shoreline in sticky, black globs. The leak occurred about five miles (8 kilometers) offshore at a depth of about 98 feet (30 meters). 

The city of Huntington Beach closed its beaches from the Santa Ana River jetty to the pier that evening and the police department tweeted two days after the incident, “We continue to prioritize our oil spill clean-up and protection efforts in collaboration with our agency partners.” 

Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency and said help was on the way.

“The state is moving to cut red tape and mobilize all available resources to protect public health and the environment,” Newsom said in a news release. 

More than 1,400 workers gathered along the stretch of Orange County’s coastline on Sunday, wearing hazmat suits and carrying sifting nets. They so far have recovered 14 barrels of tar balls and another quarter-million pounds of oily sand and debris in the week since the spill. 

In addition to the destruction to the beach, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response is raising awareness to the affected ocean ecosystems. They are now accepting volunteer applications from the public to help with cleanup efforts.  

According to a statement from the city of Huntington Beach and California State Parks, Huntington Beach reopened on Monday after water quality tests came back with no detectable levels of oil associated toxins in the ocean water. 

“We understand the significance our beaches have on tourism, our economy, and our overall livelihood here in Huntington Beach,” Mayor Kim Carr said in a statement. “It is important that our decision to reopen our shoreline and water be based on data and that we continue to monitor the water quality going forward.”

Amplify Energy is partially responsible for the oil leak and said no more than 126 thousand gallons (477 thousand liters) leaked out of the pipe. But the company also spoke to federal investigators saying the total may be 29,400 gallons (111,300 liters).  

In response to the spill, Amplify Energy said in a statement, “As a precautionary measure, all of the company’s production and pipeline operations at the Beta Field have been shut down.”

The Coast Guard is also investigating whether a large commercial ship set anchor in the wrong location, damaging the oil pipeline and causing the initial spill. 

Amplify Energy now faces a possible class-action lawsuit. Southern California DJ, Peter Moses Gutierrez Jr., claimed he will lose business because of the oil spill. He filed a lawsuit Monday, Oct. 4 against Amplify Energy and its affiliate companies. 

The complaint said Gutierrez Jr., whose company regularly books events along Huntington Beach, will lose business in the foreseeable future. It also claimed that he has been or will be exposed to toxins as a result of the spill. 

As of Monday afternoon, approximately 4,158 gallons of oil have been recovered from the water. Beachgoers were given the okay to return to the water on Monday but officials are warning individuals to avoid areas that smell of oil and not to touch any oiled materials that wash ashore.