Chevron faces violation notice in Kern County spill, million gallons of oil, water recovered

More than a million gallons of fluid have been recovered from an oil spill in Kern County that’s considered California’s largest in recent memory.

Cleanup operations at the Cymric Oil Field, 35 miles west of Bakersfield near the small town of McKittrick, continued over the weekend after Gov. Gavin Newsom toured the site earlier this week. The massive oil spill began May 10 and has led to a violation notice being handed to the Chevron company, who was operating the site.

Pumps have been used to recover oil and water from a dry creekbed and an excavator was brought in to break down solids created by dirt and fluids, according to the latest joint statement from the state on the incident.

Cleanup of an oil spill that started May 10 continues in a Kern County canyon. Chevron, the company responsible for the spill, faces pressure from the state to fix the problem. Contributed California Fish and Wildlife

Environmental assessments will continue in the coming week as state agencies plan how to tackle the cleanup, which has lasted months. There was no immediate danger to wildlife or drinking water, according to the State Water Resources Control Board.

Gov. Newsom reported progress during his visit earlier in the week and called for greater oversight. The state has committed $1.5 million in the latest budget to study how to cut the demand for petroleum in the state.

According to officials, some fluid continues to be released from one section of the Kern County spill site but it has been captured by pumps. State officials issued a violation notice to Chevron and ordered the company to stop steam injections around the area where the spill occurred.

The type of spill is called a “surface expression,” which means the oil and water mixture seeped out onto the ground and caused a flow. KQED, first to report the spill, reported a Chevron spokesman said the spill may have been caused by an abandonment of a well that then possibly ruptured.

Earlier this month the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources ordered Chevron to do everything possible to stop continued flow of oil and water onto the surface. The Bakersfield Californian reported Friday that Chevron sought more clarification in an appeal it filed earlier in the week on what it should do in response to the spill.

Environmental activists decried Chevron’s actions during the months-long spill and cleanup and urged the state to keep the company accountable.

If Chevron does not comply with orders from the state, it could face fines and more enforcement, which could hurt the company’s chances at operating future oil wells in the state.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Cresencio Rodriguez-Delgado is a journalist at The Fresno Bee. He covers the people and places experiencing economic and social inequity for The California Divide media collaboration. He grew up in the southern San Joaquin Valley and has a bachelor’s degree in print journalism from Fresno State.