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These Photos Show How A Major Oil Spill In California Has Blackened Beaches As Workers Race To Clean The Mess

Over the weekend, California experienced an environmental disaster after a major oil spill off the coast of Orange County.

Posted on October 5, 2021, at 4:46 p.m. ET

California officials have been racing to contain a major oil spill off the coast of Orange County that occurred when a ruptured pipeline sent at least 126,000 gallons of crude into the water.

Officials were investigating whether a ship's anchor may have been to blame for the rupture over the weekend, and said Monday that the size of the spill may rise to 144,000 gallons of crude, which has reached shorelines and state parks. With oil slicks intruding on wetlands and preserves, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency to assist with cleanup efforts.

Here's a look at the disaster and how people are trying to contain it:

Closeup view of the beach with black oil mixed in with sand
Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

People walk the beach as oil residue mixes with sand after a huge spill off the coast of Bolsa Chica State Beach, Oct. 4.

Young man arranges signs on the beach warning against swimming
Ringo H.W. Chiu / AP

Lifeguards prepare to post signs warning that water contact may cause illness, as they close the beach following an oil spill in Huntington Beach, Oct. 3, 2021.

A cleanup worker wears a life vest and coveralls covered with dark residue from the oil spill
Mario Tama / Getty Images

A worker in a protective suit cleans oil in the Talbert Marsh wetlands after a 126,000-gallon oil spill from an offshore oil platform on Oct. 4 in Huntington Beach.

A tool for cleanup is covered in gooey remnants from the oil spill
Ringo H.W. Chiu / AP

A cleanup contractor uses a skimmer after an oil spill in Huntington Beach, Oct. 3.

A seagull is seen picking apart a dead fish on the beach
Patrick T. Fallon / AFP via Getty Images

A seagull eats a dead fish on the beach after an oil spill off Huntington Beach on Oct. 4.

Gloved hands hold a small bird that is covered in oil from the oil spill
Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Dr. Duane Tom of Oiled Wildlife Care Network, UC Davis, inspects an oiled Sanderling shorebird at the Wildlife & Wetlands Center in Huntington Beach, Oct. 4.

A wave approaches the blackened beach in California as oil drifts in from the spill
Mario Tama / Getty Images

In an aerial view, shorebirds feed amid oil contaminating Huntington State Beach after the oil spill off Huntington Beach.

A man holds an oil globule larger than his hand that was found on the beach
Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Greg Boston of Newport Beach holds a large globule of oil he picked up from the sand on Huntington State Beach, Oct. 4.

MediaNews Group via Getty Images

Oil covers rocks and grasses at Talbert Marsh in Huntington Beach on Oct. 4.

Workers in skiffs navigate oil-filled waters and attempt to clean up the mess from the oil spill
Ringo H.W. Chiu / AP

Cleanup contractors deploy skimmers and floating barriers known as booms to try to stop further oil crude incursion into the Talbert Marsh wetlands in Huntington Beach, Oct. 3.

Ringo H.W. Chiu / AP

Cleanup contractors deploy skimmers and floating barriers known as booms to try to stop further oil crude incursion into the Talbert Marsh wetlands in Huntington Beach, Oct. 3.

Ringo H.W. Chiu / AP

Oil washes up on Huntington Beach, on Oct. 4.

Patrick T. Fallon / AFP via Getty Images

A surfer whose surfboard is covered in oil residue walks away from the shoreline, where environmental response crews are cleaning up after an oil spill of Huntington Beach, on Oct. 4.

The carcass of a large fish, its skull visible, lies on blackened sand
Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

One of many dead fish washes ashore on the border of Huntington Beach and Newport Beach at the Santa Ana River Jetties, Oct. 4.


A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.