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15 Images Showing How Refugio Oil Spill Kills Lives

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15 Images Showing How Refugio Oil Spill Kills Lives

The catastrophic oil spill across the Gaviota Coast on Tuesday 19th of May 2015 saw a devastating 21,000 gallons of crude oil leak from a ruptured underground pipe. The oil spill has devastated the flora and fauna for 9 miles, causing insurmountable damage to this incredibly bio-diverse coastline.

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    A young sea lion lies dead and drenched in oil on the beach (Photo: Santa Barbara Channelkeeper)

    It is difficult to put an exact number on the amount of animals that have and will die as a result of the oil spill, because most of the damage is occurring underwater. The Gaviota coastline is host to a range of creatures, including pelicans, cormorants, grebes, dolphins, sea lions, elephant seals, bass, guitarfish, spiny lobsters, rock crabs, urchins, octopi, shrimp, mussels, sea hares, sponges, anemones, coral, and whole swaths of smaller sea life, the habitats of which are now irreparably damaged for years to come.

    Refugio Oil Spill 3
      Plants and trees, which flourish along the Refugio coastline, suffer as crude oil leaks toxic chemicals into the earth (Picture: Paul Wellman)

      Estimates put the spill at approximately 21,000 gallons, but it is feared that up to 105,000 gallons of crude oil may have leaked into the ocean from the Plains All American Pipeline, covering nine miles of coastline, west of Refugio State Beach, with the viscous, carcinogenic liquid.

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        Crude oil is highly carcinogenic, containing many cancer-causing chemicals, including Benzene, Sulfur Dioxide, Nitrogen Oxides, Formaldehyde, Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and Hydrofluoric acid (Photo: Paul Wellman)

        Volunteers have turned out in their droves to assist with the cleanup effort, although health officials are advising the public to avoid affected areas. “Breathing oil fumes can cause headache, nausea, vomiting… and respiratory problems,” said Santa Barbara County Public Health Department spokesperson Susan Klein-Rothschild.

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          Crude oil, carried by the tides, can spread down the coast and deep into the earth, poisoning the atmosphere for years to come. (Photo: Paul Wellman)

          Breathing the fumes from crude oil are known to cause chemical pneumonia, irritation of the nose, throat, and lungs, headache, dizziness, drowsiness, loss of coordination, fatigue, nausea, and labored breathing. Chronic exposure can result in irregular heartbeats, convulsions, and coma.

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            Oil is churned and shifted down the coast with the tide (Picture: Paul Wellman)

            Local fisheries have been closed down for fear that their produce could be contaminated with carcinogenic and toxic chemicals from crude oil.

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            15 Images Showing How Refugio Oil Spill Kills Lives
              An oil drenched crab crawls a short distance across the beach before dying (Photo: David McNew/Getty Images)

              The Gaviota coast is one of only five Mediterranean ecosystems in the world, boasting a diverse and vibrant range of creatures native to the area.

              15 Images Showing How Refugio Oil Spill Kills Lives
                Oil floods the beach, soaking the sand and rocks (Photo: David McNew/Getty Images)

                The previously pristine Gaviota Coast, called “the Galapagos of North America,” is one of only five places on the planet where plants and animals of the North and the South meet.

                15 Images Showing How Refugio Oil Spill Kills Lives
                  A lobster, soaked in oil, lies dead in the sand (Photo: David McNew/Getty Images)

                  Crude oil blackens the water, choking sea grass and other marine plants from much needed sunlight, and in turn preventing small marine animals from feeding.

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                  15 Images Showing How Refugio Oil Spill Kills Lives
                    A lobster, soaked in oil, lies dead in the sand (Photo: David McNew/Getty Images)

                    Crude oil seeps into and under rocks, soaks into the sand, sits on top of the water, and below it. It’s toxic fumes are carried by the wind, meaning there is almost no safe-zone for plants and animals.

                    15 Images Showing How Refugio Oil Spill Kills Lives
                      The body of a Pelican, saturated with oil (Picture: Tamlorn Chase)

                      Even a small amount of oil can kill a bird. The oil globs their feathers together, which can prevent them from flying properly, restricting their ability to hunt. Their diet also consists mainly of fish, which are likely to contain toxins from the oil spill.

                      15 Images Showing How Refugio Oil Spill Kills Lives
                        Oil spills down the beach towards the sea (Picture: Paul Wellman)

                        Oil has been found as far as 11 miles out from the shore.

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                          Oil seeps into the sand and rocks, killing wildlife and making the area inhospitable (Photo: Paul Wellman)

                          Oil is killing plankton in their droves, essential to the ecosystem of the Gaviota coast. This can effect everything from tide-pool fliter feeders, to endangered blue whales, migrating through the Santa Barbara Channel.

                          15 Images Showing How Refugio Oil Spill Kills Lives
                            The waves are thick and black with oil, as a sheen 50-100 yards wide coats the coast in viscous oil (Picture: Paul Wellman)

                            Efforts are being made to transport kelp, eel grass and surf grass away from dangerous areas. Preserving the flora of the area is essential to ensuring the eventual restoration of the animals that live along the Gaviota coast, whose survival is dependent on flourishing greenery.

                            15 Images Showing How Refugio Oil Spill Kills Lives
                              Cormorants, a common site along the Refugio coastline, emigrate north to avoid the oil-soaked beaches. (Picture: Paul Wellman)

                              The long term effects of the Refugio oil spill will have a devastating effect on the wildlife of the area. Restoration projects will have to go on for years in order to try to recover some of the damage.

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                              15 Images Showing How Refugio Oil Spill Kills Lives
                                Crude oil spreads across 9 miles of coastline, killing fish and other wildlife and devastating their coastal habitats (Photo: Paul Wellman)

                                Featured photo credit: (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images) via media.mnn.com

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