Cleanup Completed of Toro Canyon Oil Spill

Santa Barbara County firefighters responding to a reported oil spill in Toro Canyon on January 1, 2023 (Photo: SBCFD)

Update by the edhat staff
January 6, 2023 

On January 6, Unified Command officially concluded the response to the oil spill in Toro Canyon, dubbed the Toro Incident.

Crews completed surveys Friday of the response area and the shoreline around the mouth of the creek and determined that no additional recoverable product remains in the environment.

Santa Barbara County will continue to monitor the area throughout the upcoming storms to ensure that no additional product is released and will resume standard maintenance operations at the site. The amount of oil discharged, impacts, and cause are currently under investigation.

Questions related to the ongoing maintenance of the site should be directed to Santa Barbara County Public Works Public Information Officer, Lael Wageneck, at (805)568-3425.

Update by the edhat staff
January 4, 2023

The cleanup effort continues for an oil spill in Toro Canyon.

The Unified Command [consisting of Santa Barbara County, Santa Barbara County Fire Department, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response (CDFW-OSPR)] continue to manage the incident with approximately 50-60 personnel.

Response activities include surveying the area for oil and impacted wildlife, clean up operations and preparing for upcoming rain.

According to the Unified Command, no oil from the Toro Incident has been observed in the creek south of State Route Highway 192 at Toro Canyon Road, including the beach and ocean. Pacific Petroleum California continues to clean up and reduce the impacts of the spill to the community, environment, and wildlife.

CDFW-OSPR has activated Wildlife Branch with the Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN) to address potential impacts to wildlife.

As of 8 a.m. on January 3, there are no reports of oiled wildlife. Anyone observing oiled wildlife should not attempt to capture it. Instead, please report observations of oiled wildlife to the oiled wildlife hotline at 1-877-UCD-OWCN (1-877-823-6926). Volunteers are not requested at this time. If volunteers are needed in the future, information will be available at 

The amount of oil discharged, impacts, and cause are currently under investigation.

Update by the edhat staff
January 2, 2023

A Unified Command between Santa Barbara County, Santa Barbara County Fire Department, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response has been established to manage the Toro Incident.

At 11:30 a.m. on January 1, Montecito Fire Protection District and Carpinteria Summerland Fire District personnel responded to a report of oil in a creek in the 1000 block of Toro Canyon Road. First responders from South Coast Hazmat Response Team (Carpinteria, Montecito, Santa Barbara City, and Santa Barbara County Fire Departments) responded and initiated protective actions that included damming, and the use of absorbent pads and booms to minimize the impact of the oil.

According to the Unified Command, the oil is from a natural seepage well built by the Occidental Oil Company in 1882. The Environmental Protection Agency retrofitted the site to prevent seepage in the 1990s by building an oil and water separator facility at the well. The County has monitored that facility since 2009.

The Toro Incident Unified Command has contracted Pacific Petroleum California for cleanup to reduce the impacts to the community, environment and wildlife. While there are currently no reports of affected wildlife, the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine Oiled Wildlife Care Network has been activated.

The amount of oil released, impacts, and cause are currently under investigation.

Oil Spill Response in Toro Canyon

Update by the edhat staff
2:15 p.m.,January 1, 2023

Emergency responders are on the scene of an oil leak in Toro Canyon.

At 11:33 a.m. Sunday, crews from the Santa Barbara County, Montecito, and Carpinteria Fire Departments arrived in the 1000 block of Toro Canyon Road.

County Fire Captain Scott Safechuck confirms there is an oil leak into Toro Creek but the source and amount are unknown at this time.

Oil Response Equipment is on the scene with resources from Carpinteria Fire taking the lead until a Unified Command can be established.

This is a developing story.

Photos by MTO BC Ederer.

By Tagdes
11:41 a.m., January 1, 2023

Full hazmat response at 1071 Toro Canyon Rd. Montecito Fire responding.

Edhat Staff

Written by Edhat Staff

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  1. Holy Moly. The only conceivable positive detail is that the 2020 leak was caused by the Thomas Fire, not a heavy rain.
    A terrible story; I can still be shocked by bureaucracy.
    “By Nick Welsh
    Tue Apr 19, 2022
    SB Independent
    “With the Santa Barbara District Attorney’s Office still investigating who didn’t do what and when in connection with a 2020 oil spill that got into Montecito’s Toro Canyon Creek, the county supervisors just approved a $450,000 contract to hire the outside law firm of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr LLP to provide advice on environmental law and compliance matters. The legal budget exceeds the $428,567 that Public Works officials said had been spent cleaning up the mess at a supervisors’ meeting last August. The spill started when the Thomas Fire melted a stretch of oil pipeline running alongside Toro Creek, releasing 450-6,000 gallons of oil into the creek.
    The question of ultimate responsibility for the spill and attendant cleanup has proved jurisdictionally confounding in the extreme. The spill originated in seeps that had been commercially mined in 1882 by Occidental Mining and Petroleum, which went out of business and abandoned the site decades ago. In the 1990s, the oozing seep led to significant spillage and briefly the State Department of Fish and Wildlife assumed control. The EPA then assumed incident command in 1998 and the federal government spent $1.5 million in improvisational clean and containment efforts until 2008. At that point, responsibility got passed like a hot potato to the state’s Regional Water Quality Control Board and then to the County of Santa Barbara’s Public Works Department, albeit very unwillingly.
    The county received limited funding to help offset the new costs. That money, however, ran out in 2019. The spill of 2020 led to the deaths of 17 small birds, 13 bats, and one squirrel. It required the rehabilitation of 92 frogs and one lizard.
    As environmental fire drills go, the Toro Creek cleanup moved as fast as the leaking oil itself. The spill was first detected August 3, 2020; state officials were notified 18 days later; then, on September 30, 2020, a protective oil boom was installed by county firefighters to keep the oil from getting into the creek. By January 21, 2021, however, the oil had gotten past the boom and into the creek. Actual cleanup efforts commenced July 6, 2021, 11 months after the leak was first detected.”

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