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Pipeline Operator: Possibly Months To Determine Cause Of Calif. Spill

A bird covered in oil flaps its wings at Refugio State Beach, north of Goleta, Calif., on Thursday. More than 9,000 gallons of oil has been raked, skimmed and vacuumed from a spill that stretched across 9 miles of California coast, just a fraction of the sticky, stinking goo that escaped from a broken pipeline, officials said.

It could be months before investigators can determine what caused a pipeline leak that has fouled a stretch of coast in Southern California, the company that operates the oil conduit says.

Since the leak was discovered earlier this week, more than 9,000 gallons of oil have been raked, skimmed or vacuumed from a 9-mile stretch of California shoreline near Santa Barbara, officials say.

"We have not even uncovered the pipe yet," said Patrick Hodgins, senior director of safety for Texas-based Plains All American, according to The Associated Press.

The AP reports:

"The thick, powerful-smelling crude coated rocks and sand, but only six oil-coated pelicans and one juvenile sea lion had been rescued.

"An abundance of volunteers had made themselves available to help sop up oil and in particular to help clean off animals, but they were being turned away and encouraged not to act on their own."

And The New York Times notes: "As oil spills go, this is hardly the worst that Santa Barbara County has faced. The area has long had the unlikely juxtaposition of stunning beaches and hills facing oil derricks out in the water. As of Thursday afternoon, it appeared that 21,000 gallons of oil had spilled into the water from the broken pipe before it was shut down, a far cry from the three million gallons lost in a 1969 spill that has been widely credited with starting the environmental movement."

Update at 2:35 p.m. ET. Feds Order Testing Of Pipe Section:

The Los Angeles Times reports:

"Federal authorities issued a corrective action order Friday against Plains Pipeline, the company responsible for a pipeline rupture in Santa Barbara County that spilled up to 21,000 gallons of crude into the ocean.

"The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has ordered Plains Pipeline to send the section of pipe that ruptured out for metallurgical testing, conduct a root cause analysis of the spill and have an outside group review past pipeline integrity test results, among other actions, officials said."

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