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Abandoned oil wellhead exposed after rains wash away sand at Summerland Beach

Summerland resident Chris Goldblatt stumbled upon something he knew existed, but had never seen before at Summerland Beach.

Goldblatt was walking his dog on Saturday when he noticed a black piling sticking out of the water. He shot video of the piling, which he believes is a leaking oil wellhead.

“Ninety-nine percent of the time, it’s covered in 10 or 12 feet of sand. But with the deluge we’ve had recently. the sand has been removed, exposing the wellhead,” Goldblatt said. “It was emitting a very steady stream of crude oil.”

There are dozens of old wells at Summerland Beach which was once a bustling oil field, pumping out oil and gas from the Santa Barbara Channel.

The Summerland Oil Field was developed in the 1890s and has the distinction of being the location of the world’s first offshore oil wells.

Decades later, the wells were abandoned and leaks started springing up on the sand and in the water.

“Those oil companies are basically gone and it becomes the property of the state, as far as I know. They have done nothing, as far as I know, to detect, using ground penetrating radar to excavate and recap these wells,” Goldblatt said.

Goldblatt runs the non-profit Fish Reef Project, a manufacturer of artificial reefs. The organization’s mission is to create a network of reefs along portions of the coast of California and Hawaii.

But, Goldblatt said clean water is essential to do it and that’s not the case at Summerland Beach.

“You have a permanent daily man-made oil spill and a sewage pipe that is 50 feet long, which is spewing mostly treated sewage in an enclosed bay where there is no current.”

Goldblatt hopes local environmental groups and the state will find a way to fix the leaking wellheads.

“I just hope that the community wakes up and holds the state and the environmental community responsible for doing their jobs and fixing a serious acute problem.”

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