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El Segundo Spill Washes Up on Beach; Renews Offshore-Loading Concerns

WIND-WHIPPED surf pushed the remnants of a light oil spill from an underwater pipeline onto the sands of Malibu March 18, closing the beach but causing only minimal damage. A thin sheen of about 21,000 gallons of oil had stretched into a 25-mile-long ribbon along the coast from El Segundo, where a pipeline leading to the nearby Chevron refinery was ruptured by an anchor on a tanker that was mooring at an offshore facility.

Chevron spokeswoman Bonnie Chaikind said a 275-member cleanup crew was using absorbent padding to mop up the yellow-brown foam. A sand berm also had been built around Malibu Creek. Five small creek tributaries had also been boomed as a precautionary measure.

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Ms. Chaikind said an expected Pacific storm might serve to further churn up the light sheen and break it into biodegradable parts. A Coast Guard spokesman, however, said the oil - used to clean the pipeline and to help the flow of crude, was more toxic than heavier blends.

"It might eventually become biodegradable," said Petty Officer Tim Rowe. "But even though it's no danger to any of the larger animals, like sea lions, it will affect the single-cell organisms, those farther down on the food chain."

Coast Guard officials called the spill a "moderate" one, about one-fifth the size of the nearly 400,000 gallon spill of crude oil off Huntington Beach in February 1990.

Nonetheless, the spill renewed concerns about offshore tanker loading.

Several environmental groups and City Councilwoman Ruth Galanter called for a temporary moratorium on the loading and unloading of oil tankers in Santa Monica Bay until oil companies can assure the public similar accidents will not recur.

"We are very lucky that this spill didn't turn out to be a major environmental disaster," she said. "A temporary halt in loading and unloading tankers is a prudent response considering the ongoing potential for disaster."

The spill took place about a mile offshore from Chevron's El Segundo refinery as the 616-foot US-flagged oil tanker Omi Dynachem was coming into the offshore moorings. Its anchor punctured the 26-inch pipeline, used to offload crude oil from tankers, at about 7:20 p.m. March 16.

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Chevron was coordinating cleanup efforts with the oil-spill response firm Clean Coastal Waters.

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