Tar balls are appearing on San Diego beaches, possibly linked to the pipeline breach in southern California

Tar balls are appearing on San Diego beaches, possibly linked to the pipeline breach in southern California
Container ships and an oil derrick line the horizon as environmental oil spill cleanup crews search the beach, cleaning up oil chucks from a major oil spill in Huntington Beach Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021. Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
  • Lifeguards are seeing tar balls washing ashore San Diego beaches, according to local officials.
  • Officials are testing the tar balls, but it is "very likely" linked to the Orange County oil spill.

Tar balls washing ashore beaches in San Diego, California, nearly 100 miles away from a pipeline breach off the coast of Orange County.

Earlier this week, a 13-inch pipeline breach off the coast of southern California - about five miles away from Huntington Beach - spilled more than 125,000 gallons of crude oil into the Pacific Ocean, closing local beaches and threatening wildlife and their habitats.

Local officials have launched efforts to clean up the spill to minimize the environmental impact it has on ecosystems in the area, but lifeguards from the cities of Carlsbad and Oceanside - about 93 miles away from Huntington Beach - reported seeing tar balls appearing on their beaches Wednesday night, local officials announced Thursday.

"While it is not impossible for this to occur naturally, the quantity is highly unlikely, highly unusual, and it is very likely that these tar balls are in fact the result of the oil spill," Nathan Fletcher, chair of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, said during a news conference Thursday, according to a CNN report.

Fletcher wrote in a tweet Thursday that shoreline assessment teams were deployed to San Diego county to "test the tar balls & determine with certainty if they are from the SoCal oil spill."


Fletcher said San Diego County will declare a state of emergency if test results show that the tar balls are connected to the oil spill near Huntington Beach, citing the CNN report.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website, "an occasional brief contact with a small amount of oil, while not recommended, will do no harm."

"However, some people are especially sensitive to chemicals, including the hydrocarbons found in crude oil and petroleum products," according to the website. "They may have an allergic reaction or develop rashes even from brief contact with oil. In general, we recommend that contact with oil be avoided."