In the early hours of Thursday morning, a pipeline carrying oil from Texas to Los Angeles ruptured in the Atwater Village neighborhood of Los Angeles. Over the course of about 45 minutes 10,000 gallons of oil spilled into the streets creating a noxious lake a half-mile long and knee-deep in places.
It appears that the nearby Los Angeles River was saved by the alert response and quick thinking of the Los Angeles Fire Department. We owe the team a huge debt of thanks. Not only did they get on the scene fast, but they thought creatively about how to stop the oil from flowing into the stormdrain system and hence to the river.
And one stroke of luck also helped. One business in the industrial section just happened to be a cement plant with ample stocks of sand. The fire department deployed the sand to build berms that contained the spill.
Initial reports indicate that the quick response averted potential environmental impacts. But even so, a few neighbors were taken to local hospitals and potential environmental damage is still being assessed.
We applaud all of the first responders. But we also have to ask, is this a risk we’re prepared to take in our communities and our Bay?
As I write this, the residents of the small South Bay city Hermosa Beach are preparing for a referendum on whether to allow Big Oil to sink 34 oil wells in the heart of their city to tap into oil under the Bay. The oil company tells them to not worry, it’s safe and any spills will be quickly contained. You tell me, is this a risk you’d take?