How to Help California Oil Spill Cleanup Efforts

With more than 130,000 gallons of spilled crude oil traveling along the coast of Southern California, leaving a thick trail of debris destroying wildlife and environmental reserves, many Southern Californians are wondering what they can do to help.

For now, the answer is not much, at least not in terms of physical labor. But there are other ways you can help with cleanup efforts.

The Orange County Health Agency issued a statement Sunday warning residents to stay away from affected areas and seek medical attention if they may have been exposed. Crude oil is particularly toxic and can cause physical damage, such as skin irritation and vomiting.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife posted a similar message on its Cal Spill Watch website, noting that the state’s cleanup efforts “use only trained volunteers.” “There is no need for volunteers from the public and they can obstruct response efforts,” he added. The site offers a form that potential volunteers can submit, indicating their level of training and experience.

Trained spill response contractors have been deployed to stop the spread of oil and clean up parts of the environment that have been affected, including wildlife. “Step away from beaches and oceans for now and let the professionals do their jobs,” said Gary Brown, founding director of the Orange County Coastkeepers.

Brown also warned boat owners not to clean their oily boats while on the water. Dish soap can work well for cleaning animals, but it sticks to the oil being cleaned from the ship and causes it to sink to the bottom of the harbor. He pointed out that boat owners should wait until more information is available.

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But the public’s help with the clean-up process is still needed, the city of Huntington Beach reported on Instagram. “Right now, the wildlife rescue teams are in desperate need of donations,” the city said. Instruct donors to deliver supplies at the Bolsa Chica Conservancy in Huntington Beach or at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach. Dishwashing soap and gloves are some of the most requested items by organizations.

Donations of cash or supplies can also go to state and local organizations, including:

• California Coastkeeper Alliance

• Foundation Surfrider

• Huntington Beach Wetlands

Meanwhile, the following areas are closed to the public until further notice:

• Playas de Newport Beach

• The beaches of Laguna Beach

• Port of Newport

• Crystal Cove

For more information on the oil spill, see:

• Los Angeles Times coverage of the oil spill

• Orange County Health Care Agency Beach Closure Map

• Southern California spill response site established by state and federal agencies, as well as Amplify Energy, the offshore oil drilling company responsible for the spill

Karen Garcia and Ada Tseng contributed to this article.

If you want to read this article in Spanish, click here.

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