Updated Oct 11, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Southern California beaches reopen, as oil spill cleanup continues

 Oil spill cleanup workers search for contaminated sand and seaweed on a mostly empty Huntington Beach in California on Oct. 9.

Oil spill cleanup workers search for contaminated sand and seaweed at Huntington Beach in California on Oct. 9. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

A Southern California coastal area closed since one of the largest oil spills in the state's recent history struck over a week ago reopened Monday, as cleanup efforts continue.

The latest: Huntington Beach's reopening Monday came sooner than many expected, after water quality tests came back with no detectable levels of oil associated toxins in the ocean water, AP reports.

Details: Tests detected no oil associated toxins in the ocean water at city and state beaches in the Huntington Beach area, per a statement from the city of Huntington Beach and California State Parks. The statement warned people not to touch "oiled materials and tar balls" they expect to wash up on the beach.

  • Officials also urged beachgoers in the statement to "avoid areas where an oil smell is present."
  • Huntington Beach Mayor Kim Carr said in a statement that the officials would "continue to monitor the water quality" after the beaches reopened.

The big picture: Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley told the Los Angeles Times Sunday that over 1,400 cleanup workers had found "14 barrels of tar balls and another quarter-million pounds of oily sand and debris" since the spill was confirmed on Oct. 2.

In photos: California cleanup efforts, 1 week after spill
 Cleanup crews work around beachgoers on Huntington Beach  on Oct. 9
Cleanup crews work around beachgoers on Huntington Beach on Oct. 9. Several beaches were still partially or fully closed as crews worked in Orange and San Diego counties on Oct. 10, KNBC noted. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images
 A person sits on a mostly empty Huntington Beach about one week after an oil spill from an offshore oil platform on Oct. 9 in Huntington Beach, California.
A sign Huntington Beach on Oct. 9. The spill contaminated several popular beaches and devastated wildlife. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images
People walk with a dog as cleanup workers comb Huntington Beach on Oct. 9.
People walk with a dog as cleanup workers comb Huntington Beach on Oct. 9. California Gov. Gavin Newsom last week declared a state of emergency in response to the spill. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images
Cleanup workers combing Huntington Beach for any signs of oil on Oct. 9.
Cleanup workers combing Huntington Beach for any signs of oil on Oct. 9. "More than 7,500 people had offered to volunteer" with the cleanup, the LA Times notes. From those, 200 were selected. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images
 People play football as cleanup workers look for contaimination in Huntington Beach, California.
People play football as cleanup workers search for contaminated sand and seaweed on Oct. 9 in Huntington Beach. While people have been allowed on the beach, the ocean had been off-limits since the spill was detected. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Editor's note: This article has been updated to include details of the reopening announcement.

Go deeper