Surfers bobbed in the waves and people walked along the shoreline, some with dogs jumping and playing in the water, at beaches that reopened Monday morning in Huntington Beach.
The city of Huntington Beach and the California State Parks announced Sunday that they plan to reopen both city and state beaches in Huntington Beach on Monday. They did so at 6 a.m.
Andrew Boyack, a 54-year-old commercial photographer, was eager to get back to surfing the waves he usually rides three or four times a week.
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“There’s lots of guys out so I figure it’s probably alright, and I guess they tested it,” he said, while rinsing off at an outdoor beach shower.
“It’s exercise. It’s like, you know, if somebody was a jogger or something. We surf every morning.”
Before Monday, residents were allowed to walk on the sand in Huntington Beach but were prohibited from the shoreline and the water. Popular surfing and swimming spots in Newport Beach and Laguna Beach were also closed.
The decision to reopen the beaches comes after coastal ocean and wetlands water quality testing results showed non-detectable amounts of oil associated toxins in the ocean’s water, the release said.
Citing health and safety concerns, and in partnership with the Orange County Health Care Agency, the ocean and shoreline between the Santa Ana River Jetty and Sunset Beach were closed in response to the oil spill off the Huntington Beach coast.
Since the initial report of the oil spill, the city and state have been monitoring the situation. Officials in the city of 200,000 people have said the water testing will continue for at least two more weeks.
"While the overall clean-up efforts are being led by the US Coast Guard, in Huntington Beach, the local response efforts focused on two main priorities: protecting the health and safety of residents and visitors; and preventing an ecological disaster by mitigating the impacts of the oil on the coastline and wetlands," the release said.
As an additional safety measure, Huntington Beach hired an independent contractor who tested 40 different sites along the Huntington Beach coast and wetlands from the Santa Ana River Jetty through Sunset Beach, the release said.
All samples were tested for Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH) and Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons (TPH) as a way to determine the levels of oil present in the ocean.
The testing results for all but one of the 40 tested locations came back with a non-detectable amount of PAH and TPH. The only location where oil was detected was a non-toxic level located in the water just north of Warner Avenue.
“The health and safety of our residents and visitors is of the utmost importance. We understand the significance our beaches have on tourism, our economy, and our overall livelihood here in Huntington Beach,” said Huntington Beach Mayor, Kim Carr. “It is important that our decision to reopen our shoreline and water be based on data and that we continue to monitor the water quality going forward.”
The initial independent ocean water testing report can be found on the city’s oil spill webpage.
Officials said water quality testing will continue twice a week for at least the next two weeks, and those test results will also be published to the city’s oil spill webpage.
Officials reminded the public to utilize caution when visiting the beach.
Given the oil spill situation and impacts, an ongoing advisory notice remains in effect for all beaches in Huntington Beach, the release said.
Beachgoers are advised to avoid areas where an oil smell is present.
Officials said it is expected to see oiled materials and tar balls wash up on the beach, and individuals are advised not to handle or ingest any oil materials.
If you do see oil or tar balls on the beach, please contact beach clean-up teams at email@example.com.