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Ed Comes Clean
updated: Oct 28, 2004, 12:00 AM


October 28, 2004 - Ed Comes Clean

Santa Barbara is known throughout the world as a beautiful destination on the Central Coast of California.  Her beaches, mountains and restaurants are touted and raved about.  Her weather is unsurpassed.  Her tourist industry rivals that of Carmel and Martha’s Vineyard.  It’s sort of ironic then, that a large part of Santa Barbara’s recent history is shaped by something as unseemly as an oil spill.

We’ve mentioned it before.  It will come up again.  Every time there is a local election, it will be the cornerstone of someone’s campaign.

It happened in 1969 off the Carpinteria shoreline. In the course of drilling one of the wells on Platform A, an accident occurred on the platform and a build-up of natural gas caused a large crack in the sea floor, releasing between 80,000 and 100,000 barrels (42 gallons per barrel) of oil into the ocean. Oil company workers attempted to keep the oil off shore, but they really didn’t know what to do with it. After five days, a storm came along and washed it right onto the County’s beaches.


Local residents joined in an attempt to clean up the oil, basically causing a bigger mess. The media showed up, and images of oiled birds and oiled beaches caused such a public outcry, that many today credit the ‘69 oil spill with helping to spark the environmental movement in the US.

Okay, okay, so who owns the boat?  We’re getting there. In 1970, the oil companies operating in the Santa Barbara Channel got together to form an oil spill response organization (OSRO) capable of reacting to offshore spills and providing clean up.  It was called Clean Seas.

Thirty-four years ago, Clean Seas was the first OSRO in the country. Today, it is considered one of the best in the world and is the model for many of the other OSROs.  Over the years, Clean Seas has been responsible for developing and improving oil spill response equipment and technology, and have implemented training programs that include more than 1,500 people every year. In 2001, the Pacific States/British Columbia Oil Spill Task Force awarded Clean Seas with its Legacy Award.

In Santa Barbara, Clean Seas developed the "Fisherman's Oil Spill Response Team," which trains local fishermen in oil spill response techniques, so that there is extra help available in case of a large spill.  And they have boats. One of their biggest boats is called the MR CLEAN, and she sits right outside of the Santa Barbara Harbor. All boats are shes, you know. Some other boats that have been in the fleet over the years are the Ajax, the Comet and the Dawn.  A pattern?

Next to the MR CLEAN sits another blue boat. Except it’s not a boat – it’s a barge. It’s there to hold a real lot of oil.


It has always been empty. The decorative netting on the barge is to dissuade those pesky seal lions from hanging out on the barge. At best, they make it smell bad. At worst, they might sink it.  It would take an awful lot of sea lions to sink a barge, though.

The MR CLEAN and her sister the MR CLEAN III (moored up the coast off of Cojo Bay) are specially designed oil spill response vessels. Each is equipped with lots of high-tech response equipment - approximately 4,500 feet of boom, advancing oil recovery systems, high capacity stationary skimmers, storage tanks for recovered oil, Forward Looking Infrared Radar (FLIR) and advanced electronic equipment for directing and monitoring oil spill response activities.

The really good news?  The last major spill in the area was a spill of 183 barrels of oil in 1997 off of Vandenberg AFB.  Because of the technology Clean Seas employs, most of it never reached shore. In the mean time, Clean Seas has assisted the Coast Guard with shipwrecks, rescues, spills from passing freighters and cruise ships, and even the Alaska Airlines plane crash in February 2000.

There were many Edhat subscribers who knew Clean Seas, MR CLEAN, or the fact that the boat is used in oil spill response, but only two who knew all three items.  We award the daily contest prize to Paikea who not only knew the answers to the questions three, but who also used to work next door to Clean Seas and knew that their “staff is also really nice!”  Paikea wins an Edhat t-shirt and two tickets to see Monumental, a new documentary film being shown at the Marjorie Luke Theatre at 7 PM on Friday

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