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Santa Barbara County is cleaning up an oil spill from a well built in 1882

Toro Canyon Creek in Santa Barbara County
Photo provided by Santa Barbara County
Toro Canyon Creek in Santa Barbara County

Santa Barbara County is cleaning up an oil spill from a well built more than a century ago.

Fire personnel responded to a report of oil in the Toro Canyon Creek on the morning of January 1. The oil leaked from a seepage well built in 1882. Crews are using damning, absorbent pads and booms to clean it up.

According to a Santa Barbara County press release, the cause of the spill, the amount of oil released and the environmental impacts are under investigation.

“The discharge did happen after heavy rains on New Year's Eve,” SB County Public Information Officer Lael Wageneck said. “So what we're looking at is to see if that was potentially a cause of it.”

UC Davis Veterinary School Oiled Wildlife Care Network members are on-site surveying the area for impacted wildlife. So far, there are no reports of oiled wildlife.

California Dept of Fish and Wildlife Public Information Officer Steve Gonzalez said a quick response is important to minimize the devastating impacts oil spills can have on wildlife.

“There's a lot of things that can happen when oil gets into the environment,” Gonzalez said. “That's why we have a unified command that comes together that cleans up these oil spills as quick as possible.”

Gonzalez said professionals are prepared to rescue and rehabilitate any oiled wildlife.

This isn’t the first time oil has spilled out of the same well. In August 2020, about 630 gallons of oil seeped into the Toro Canyon Creek. The county waited a year before initiating a cleanup.

If you encounter oiled wildlife, you can call the Oiled Wildlife Care Network hotline at 1-877-UCD-OWCN.

KCBX Reporter Amanda Wernik graduated from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo with a BS in Journalism. Amanda is currently a fellow with the USC Center for Health Journalism, completing a data fellowship that will result in a news feature series to air on KCBX in the winter of 2024.
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