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State funds flowing to help map and cap leaky oil wells in Summerland

SUMMERLAND, Calif. - Another $500,000 is on the way to Heal the Ocean and other groups working to cap leaky oil wells off the nearshore coast in Summerland.

The wells were abandoned decades ago and many were not sealed properly. Many of the companies involved are out of business.

The leaks have sometimes been broken up by wave action, but often the result is tar balls and oily components getting up on the beach.

Residents have complained for years.

Work to cap the wells has proven to be successful in recent years, but the full mapping of the area needs to be done. Air quality tests will also be done. That will be part of an investigation into other possible sites that haven't been identified for capping work.

State Senator Monique Limon and Assemblyman Gregg Hart have $500,000 to fund the next phase of work. The money was allocated from the state as part of the ongoing efforts to have consistent work in this area as part of the environmental clean up. This funding will be used for mapping and other informational gathering. It will be part of Heal the Ocean’s Summerland Oil Mitigation Study (SOMS).

The 2017 Senate Bill 44 (Hannah-Beth Jackson) Legacy Well Re-Abandonment program provides funding for capping work at $2-million a year. The work began in 2018 with the successful re-abandonment of Becker well #1 at Summerland Beach.

Heal the Ocean Executive Director Hillary Hauser said some work has already been done with funds from the organization. "This is going to let them do 20 times more. To really identify what is going on  here  we've been poking around in the dark."

The organization has been successful in presenting evidence to the State Lands Commission and encouraging a continued effort without a funding break.

The new studies will involve state of the art equipment from Bubbleology Research Institute. The inventor Ira Leifer said he will be able to pick up readings on the gasses coming out of the area and help to pinpoint leaky wells that release both oil and gas.

This work will also be used in other areas with abandoned wells including in Beverly Hills and Signal Hill near Los Angeles and Long Beach.

It is unknown what the eventually recapping costs will be until the research is done and the extent of the leaks are known.

He said, "I have been doing air quality reserch for emissions from oil fields, from seeps, from dairies and just apply that technology," to this problem.

Lemon said, "this geological study is going to be conducted here but  in this area, however it's going to   have an impact on the State of Californi  to get that information and know how to best deploy our resources in the most accurate way."
Members of the Summerland community were on hand for the presentation and to hear what the plan is going forward.

Article Topic Follows: Environment & Energy
Santa Barbara
Summerland Beach oil

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John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT News Channel 3-12. To learn more about John, click here.


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