Leaky Summerland Oil Wells Are Now Capped
By Hillary Hauser of Heal the Ocean
On Friday afternoon, November 27, 2020, while many of us were still cleaning up our kitchens from Thanksgiving dinners the night before, the Curtin Barge, under contract to the State Lands Commission to cap the leaking Summerland oil wells, was towed from its protective mooring nearer the Santa Barbara Harbor, back down the coast to Summerland where it anchored to begin the process of capping the second, and final, well – NorthStar. Marie Morrisroe caught this sight from her Montecito balcony as they motored by.
We had all been captivated by the Curtin Barge the moment it arrived from Long Beach and anchored off the Summerland coast during the week of November 9, 2020. Its first job was to provide a working platform for oilfield divers to cap the notorious Treadwell 10 well, which had been leaking oil for years (notice the word “had,” it’s past tense).
The Curtin Barge was like our shining beacon of hope that we’d finally get a clean beach, free of oil. Funding for the $3 million operation came from SB 44, authored by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, to provide $2 million per year for the cleanup of hazards and abandoned wells along the California coast. SLC straddled two budget years to get the extra funds needed for this project.
HTO Advisory Board member Nora McNeely Hurley, whose Manitou Fund silo made possible all the studies and engineering to get this project off the ground, had a birds-eye view of the barge from her home overlooking the beach. Nora captured some great images during the time the barge was there – Harry Rabin got one shot of the barge that looked like some vehicle from heaven, come to save us.
Curtin Barge anchored over Treadwell 11/7/2020 (Photo by Harry Rabin)
Curtin Barge moored over NorthStar 11/27/2020 (Photo by Nora McNeely Hurley)
The offshore oil workers got Treadwell capped just in time. Just before Thanksgiving, ocean swells moved in and forced the Curtin barged to move to calmer waters up the coast near East Beach, to wait it out. By Saturday, November 28, 2020, the Barge moved to Summerland again and was in place to start the capping of NorthStar, a terrible leaker that has been fouling Summerland beach daily, for years. HTO Advisor Harry Rabin of On the Wave Productions had been working together with the SLC contractors InterAct engineering company in planning and locating wellheads, and now, as divers began the plugging of NorthStar, Harry flew a drone over the area of work, to identify any problem of oil escape during the construction process. His aerial photographs of the NorthStar area showed a visibly clear ocean –cleaned up just from contractors surrounding the leaking well with a pipe driven into the seafloor. The cementing of the well would happen the next day.
BEFORE & AFTER: The ocean at NorthStar was covered in oil for years – until Saturday 11/27/2020 after a pipe was sunk around well during the first part of the capping process. (Harry Rabin Photos)
Harry Rabin captured the oilfield divers working from the Barge to prepare the NorthStar well for the pumping of cement into the pipe encasing the well.
Harry Rabin Photo
Even before the bulk of the work on NorthStar was finished on Saturday, November 28, 2020, Heal the Ocean came across communications of gratitude from Summerland residents. Plugging Treadwell alone had already made a huge difference to the beach:
Nov 22, 2020. We have our beach back and can walk without shoes!!
Yes, yes, yes, Katie! It’s a miracle come true. I walked about 4 miles with neighbors today and all were in awe.
Nov 22, 2020. We have been enjoying the beach these last few beautiful days, free of the smell of oil and free from any sign of oil on the beach. What a delight! I hope some of you have noticed this too? Special thanks to all who made this happen!
Yes, thanks to all who made this happen.
Of all the many people who had a hand in this success, Heal the Ocean would like to especially thank (in chronological order):
Steve Curran, SLC petroleum engineer (ret.)
Seth Blackmun, SLC Chief Counsel
Walter Scott, SLC Project Manager
Sheri Pemberton, SLC Chief, External Affairs
Jane Gray, Dudek Santa Barbara
Gov. Pete Wilson
Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, author of SB 44
Sidney Ng, Aide to Senator Jackson
Planck Aerosystems/Gaemus Collins
InterAct, PMTI, Ventura
Mike Giuliani engineer
Eric Kroh, engineer
Michelle Pasini, principal consultant
Heal the Ocean Advisory Board:
Nora McNeely Hurley/Manitou Fund
Harry Rabin, On the Wave Productions
Danny Castagnola, Captain Danny C
And finally, Big Thanks to the HTO Board of Directors – the greatest group of go-getters in the world, who never said No to risks they were asked to take – to get this giant project done.
Saturday night 11/28/2020, the pipe that funneled the cement down to and around the NorthStar well was cut off, the well caped, and the project was finished. Photo by Harry Rabin
BON VOYAGE CURTIN BARGE – WE LOVE YOU!
At 8:30 Sunday morning, November 29, 2020, the Curtin Barge pulled anchor and left Summerland, and Santa Barbara, to return to Long Beach. They left us with a lot of gratitude in our hearts.
Photo by Suzie Mecay