SUMMERLAND, Calif. - The capping has begun on the Summerland coast where the Becker well has been leaking for years. It's a $1.5 million project.
Years ago when the aging well was leaking in the near shore waters, there was community outrage. Getting it fixed was not easy and funding was never found.
Executive Director Hillary Hauser with Heal the Ocean, a local non-profit, stood at the fence line on Lookout Park and said loudly, "it's fabulous, we've been waiting for it for 100 years."
The wells in this date back to the 1900's when offshore and onshore drilling first began in this area. Not all of the wells have handled the test of time after the oil companies left the area.
The arrival of a 180-foot barge was the result of tenacious work from local residents, politicians, and state officials to make a plan and find funding.
"This is really wonderful to see this. And, no more oil on the beach," said Hauser.
John Bennett, a Summerland resident said the oil leaks have been well known and getting to this point was a frustratiing timeline. "Everybody was saying it is natural which is a joke. It's not natural you've seen that there's 200 wells out here 100 years ago. You do the math and they capped that with cork, " he said.
A State Lands Commission engineer, Steve Curran said,
"we don't have any records on this well since it is 1900's vintage and so we believe it is about 400 feet deep so it's a shallower leak."
Between grants, local donations and state money the project has finally come together. Heal the Ocean spoke to state leaders and when the group found out the solution was only $1.5 million dollars away, they launched a plan to find funds. An aerial survey was paid for through a private donation.
"For those of us who have been waiting for this moment this is just like seeing a great big angel fly in and we will fix this," said Hauser.
Using the barge and a special sleeve, workers can get to the problem well at low tide and continue to then work on it to remove the sand around the pipe.
"At that time we will pump out all the sand and water and back fill it with concrete. Once it is back filled with concrete we will cap it with a two inch thick steel cap at that will be that," said Ralph Botticelli with Curtin Maritime out of Long Beach.
There are four other wells spotted with a citizen funded aerial survey around the Summerland location. There are 200 questionable wells off the California coast that the state now has money to spend on at least some capping.
Curtin says this barge set up is the way to take on the job instead of coming at it from the beach side at the bottom of a coastal cliff.
When it comes to taking on the remaining wells, "we want to do them all. Curtin maritime wants to do every single one. And we're ready!" said Botticelli.
For more information go to: Heal the Ocean