Refugio, El Capitan state beaches may be clean, open by June 4

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Tuesday, May 26, 2015
Refugio, El Capitan state beaches may be clean, open by June 4
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Refugio and El Capitan state beaches may open as soon as June 4, but it all depends on how well crews and volunteers can clean up the oil leftover from a devastating spill on May 19.

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -- On a normal day, Refugio State Beach, which sits along the Santa Barbara Coastline, would be packed with visitors and families enjoying the Memorial Day weekend. But instead, it has been filed with cleanup crews.

The crews are gathering every last drop of oil that closed the beach, and nearby El Capitan State Beach, after a 24-inch pipeline ruptured on May 19.

The paid crews will soon be joined by nearly 300 volunteers. The group of helpers were given a four-hour crash course on how to properly remove the oil from the beach.

PHOTOS: Refugio State Beach oil spill

The first set of volunteers is expected to be helping out either Wednesday or Thursday.

"They will be cleaning rocks with different kinds of methods. Then the next method after that is how to get at the deeper, harder-to-get oil, and we have to do it in a way that is mindful of biological concerns," said Yvonne Addassi with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Volunteers said they want to help clean up and reopen the beaches as soon as possible.

Nakia Zavalla, a member of the Santa Ynez Chumash Tribe, volunteered so she can not only help out, but also check on the village sites near the spill.

"We like to be here to support the environmental cleanup with cultural sensitivity," she said.

California State Parks officials said they hope to have both beaches open by June 4, but it all depends on the cleanup and how it has progressed.