LAGUNA BEACH (CBSLA) – Another promising sign of recovery, Laguna Beach reopened its coastline and water to the public on Thursday.
The shoreline and water of Laguna Beach was once again open for swimming and recreation just under two weeks after an oil spill off Huntington Beach left a light coating on the beaches of County of Orange, oiled up the wildlife and sent tar balls all the way to San Diego.
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FULL COVERAGE: Huntington Beach Oil Spill
The spill was initially feared as a potential environmental disaster. But since it was first reported on October 2, the volume of oil spilled has been reduced to an estimate of less than 30,000 gallons; wildlife that has been found and cleaned up has already been released back into the wild, and more beaches have reopened. Laguna Beach, however, is the first to reopen its waters and coastline.
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It was determined that crude oil had escaped from an underground pipeline that had been discovered with a 13-inch crack along its length and had moved over 100 feet. Authorities are investigating whether and when the damage was caused by the anchor of a freighter.
But the damage has been done. Several events scheduled to take place in Huntington Beach had to be canceled, area fisheries were forced to close, and businesses up and down the coast suffered a loss of foot traffic due to the absence of people. Several lawsuits have already been filed in connection with the oil spill.
An update Thursday from the Orange County Health Care Agency said water and sediment samples did not indicate a public health concern for short-term exposures from beach use. However, the public is still urged not to handle tar or oil balls.
“Based on the recent results of our air and water quality samples, we ask our residents and visitors to exercise caution if resuming recreational activities on our beaches in order to limit the risk of absorption of contaminants through the skin, inhalation or ingestion. “Dr Clayton Chau, county health official and director of the HCA, said in a statement.
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However, even if the beaches along the coast reopen, fishing and harvesting seafood in Orange County waters remains off-limits.