Oceanside Prepares as Ocean Pushes Massive Orange County Oil Spill South

Surfrider: Oil spill off Huntington Beach is being carried towards Camp Pendleton and Oceanside

Man on beach pointing at ocean
Joe Little, NBC 7

A white trailer stood by itself on the sand near the entrance to Oceanside Harbor. No one wanted to use it, but many were happy it was there.

“It’s great to see that Oceanside has their spill response ready to go,” said Chad Nelson, Ph.D. while looking at the trailer that read “Oil Spill Response Equipment” on the side.

Oceanside is the northernmost city in San Diego County. The city and MCAS Camp Pendleton are the closest in the county to the spill that dumped tens of thousands of gallons of oil off the coast of Huntington Beach.

“That blob is sitting right off San Clemente, Oceanside, Pendleton zone,” said Dr. Nelson, an environmental engineer and the CEO of the Surfrider Foundation.

He said the ocean current is pushing the oil towards the county’s northern coast. He said he expected beachgoers to soon start finding tar balls of weathered oil on the sand -- and on Thursday, San Diego County leaders said they had.

Though California has not granted a lease to a new offshore oil and gas rig in 5 decades, drilling on previously established wells still happens off the coast. But after the Huntington Beach oil spill, activists and politicians are renewing calls to shut down offshore drilling entirely . Lauren Kubiak from the Natural Resources Defense Council explains.

“People should be pissed off,” said Dr. Nelson as he walked along Oceanside Beach. “They’re out there trying to make money off the oil and these local communities are the ones who are suffering the impact.”

An Oceanside spokeswoman told NBC 7, "Oceanside is closely monitoring the impacts on our beaches, Harbor, and on wildlife. Our Emergency Operations Center is activated and continually working with commanding agencies and have response plans in place for any potential impacts."

The County of San Diego activated its Emergency Operations Center, which allows county agencies and cities to work together -- and with state and federal resources -- in their response.

“It could impact wetlands. It could impact inner tidal rocky habitat,” sighed Nelson as he nudged what looked like a tar ball with the toe of his shoe. “Oil spills are inevitable when we have all this oil infrastructure off our coast.”

Nelson said he expected the clean-up process to take months and the fallout of holding people accountable to take years.

NBC 7's Omari Fleming took a tour of SeaWorld's facility, and learned why cleaning oil off wildlife isn't always the first step in the rescue effort.

Meanwhile, SeaWorld staff are on standby in case any marine or wildlife rescued from the spill area are sent their way. They have an entire 8,000 square-foot facility prepped just for rescuing and rehabilitating animals after oil spill incidents.

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