This project was initiated over concerns from Heal the Ocean (HTO) and community members surrounding frequent observations of oil slicks off the coast of Miramar Beach in Montecito, California. The objective of this project was to investigate the likelihood that the oil slick and sheen observed on the surface of the water near Miramar is coming from the large seep area off Coal Oil Point (COP) (located approximately 15.5 miles from Miramar Beach). While there are other potential sources closer than COP, HTO wanted information that allowed them to narrow the extent of a future source investigation.
For this study, General NOAA Operational Modeling Environment (GNOME) was used to explore the conditions necessary for COP seep oil to travel to Miramar Beach. GNOME is a pollutant trajectory model developed by the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Emergency Response Division. Local wind and ocean surface current data were used for GNOME simulations leading up to days when oil was observed at Miramar. Based on the information gathered through this investigation, it appears that the oil plume observed at Miramar is more likely to be originating from a closer source than COP, such as the leaking onshore Becker well (~ one mile from Miramar) or the roughly 180 plugged and capped oils wells located offshore of nearby Summerland. Further research is needed to identify if the oil is from a natural seep or unnatural source, such as a leaking, abandoned, or uncapped well.