The images of the unfolding disaster in the Gulf of Mexico continue unabated. We continue to hear news reports of marine animals suffocating in the oil-congested waters.

British Petroleum has crews to clear beaches of dead marine life and oil each morning. BP is doing everything to contain the bad press and pretend everything is back to normal, which may never be the case.

In the fall of 1969, I moved to Goleta and saw the beaches coated with oil spilled in the blowout months earlier of platform A in the Santa Barbara Channel. All of the beaches along the coast line were completely covered, exposing the disaster.

Get Oil Out was formed in response to that spill. The blowout was a disaster that could not be cleaned up. Oil companies issued their propaganda, trying to diffuse the angry community.

Oil companies claimed oil was leaking naturally. In fact, oil companies caused the oil leaks by punching holes in the bottom of the ocean and claimed their technology was cutting-edge.

The oil industry ignores its activities in relation to drilling. To this day, oil continues to flow into the ocean and onto shore. Oil companies’ propaganda, then and now, maintains that the thick sludge, commonly called asphalta, was used by the Chumash on their seagoing vessels for waterproofing.

This was not the case, because asphalta is typically large tar balls, while the oil leaking into the ocean appears and smells like gasoline, with massive streaks of color in the water.

The first clear day after a big storm in the early 1980s, I walked down to Ellwood Beach, west of Coal Oil point, where I lived. I was surprised to see the beach.

Tons of sand was pulled out to sea and the beach was only a thin strip of sand in front of the dunes and cliffs. I was stunned at the amount of abandoned oil sites that had been exposed once sand washed away.

There were dozens of rusted metal structures exposed when the sand washed out to sea. These obviously had been cut off and left in place when the sites were abandoned. They could be seen from Coal Oil Point to the beach off Sandpiper golf course.

Get news headlines sent daily to your inbox

These abandoned sites were above the normal tide line, in the shallow waters and out in deeper water. The oil companies extracting their black gold left equipment and let nature cover up their mess.

When I moved from Goleta in 1988, it was still dangerous to swim in the water because one could easily be cut by the protruding metal that had been in the water for a very long time.

One day, jogging out toward the Sandpiper course, I saw two men with a backhoe burying 50-gallon drums on the beach. I also remember seeing some exploratory digging at Ellwood bluffs. The crews had hauled out dozens of 50-gallon drums that were rusting, full of unknown material, with no identification marks, and no apparent oversight to the dumping.

I get disgusted when corporate heads tell us how wonderful everything is after an oil disaster. They are the masters of propaganda and disinformation. Drilling offshore should be permanently banned.


James Murr is a resident of Santa Maria and can be contacted at Looking Forward runs every Friday providing a progressive viewpoint on local issues.