Washington tortilla maker pays $333,729 for oil spill
Published on October 25, 2016 5:22PM
A Seattle-area tortilla factory that spilled vegetable oil last year will reimburse Washington state $333,729 for cleaning up a pond and treating oily ducks and geese.
The Department of Ecology announced the reimbursement Monday. In addition, the company was fined $2,000 and assessed $4,813 in damages. State law allows agencies to bill private companies for cleanup costs.
La Mexicana’s general manager, William Fry, said in a written statement that the company has taken steps to prevent more spills.
“We are grateful that we were able to partner with the Department of Ecology to restore the pond that impacted wildlife,” he said.
A container tipped over Oct. 30, 2015, at a company bakery in White Center, according to Ecology.
The oil drained into a stormwater pond a few blocks away. The spill went unreported until a passer-by noticed oily birds and called authorities Nov. 6.
The discovery started a rescue mission and an investigation. La Mexicana reported Nov. 12 that it was responsible, according to Ecology.
Ecology, other agencies and contractors spent 33 days cleaning up the pond, and catching and cleaning 84 birds. Four ducks died. The state spent $250,000 treating wildlife.
La Mexicana has bought spill-response equipment and trained employees to contain, clean up and immediately report spills, according to Ecology.
White Center Pond Oil Spill(Information on this site is considered to be accurate at the time of posting, but is subject to change as new information becomes available.)
October 24, 2016, 9 a.m.La Mexicana to Reimburse the State for Clean-up Costs
La Mexicana, Inc. will manufacturer has agreed to reimburse Ecology $333,729 for the costs of cleaning up the spill and for rehabilitating oiled waterfowl.
The payment is not a penalty. The party responsible for an oil spill – and not taxpayers – must cover response costs under state law, either by paying directly for the cleanup or by repaying the government.
Since the spill, La Mexicana has purchased spill response equipment, posted instructions and trained employees to contain, clean up and immediately report future spills.
Natural Resources Damage Assessment
Apart from the cost recovery, the state has issued a separate $4,813.83 damage assessment for harm the spill caused to publicly-owned natural and cultural resources. The assessment is based on the amount spilled, the type of oil spilled and the resources placed at risk. La Mexicana has committed to fund a local restoration project to compensate the local community and the citizens of Washington for injury to their resources.
Penalty for oil spill violations
Ecology also fined La Mexican $2,000 for the release of oil into the environment and for failing to promptly report the spill. Ecology penalties may be appealed to the Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board.
December 10, 2015 9:00 a.m.Wildlife:
Wildlife recovery and care ended yesterday, December 9, 2015, with the release of the last five birds in treatment. As with all of the wildfowl releases, Focus Wildlife transported the Canada geese from the PAWS Wildlife Center in Lynnwood to a park in White Center, a short distance from the stormwater pond. Here are the final counts from the oiled wildlife recovery and treatment effort:
- 84 live birds admitted into care
- 38 Canada geese
- 46 mallard ducks
- 42 ducks released
- 38 geese released
- 4 duck mortalities: 2 were euthanized due to injuries; 2 died in care
This brings the response phase to a close. The first report of the spill – later determined to have occurred on October 30 – came on November 6, making 33 days of response activity.
December 8, 2015 9:00 a.m.Wildlife:
Through December 7, 2015, five Canada geese remain in care. Of the 84 birds admitted, Focus Wildlife has released 42 mallard ducks and 33 geese after cleaning and recovery at the PAWS Wildlife Center in Lynnwood. Four other ducks died, two while in care and two euthanized due to injuries.
December 2, 2015 10:00 a.m.Wildlife:
Focus Wildlife yesterday released the last three ducks and seven more of the geese that have received treatment at the PAWS Wildlife Center. As of December 1, 2015, 13 of the 36 geese taken into care remain in treatment. Forty-two ducks have been treated and released. Four additional ducks died, two were euthanized due to injuries and two died in care.
November 30, 2015 10:00 a.m.Wildlife:
As of November 29, 2015, three mallard ducks and 20 Canada geese remain under the care of Focus Wildlife at the PAWS Wildlife Center in Lynnwood. Most of the 82 birds admitted for care have been released: 39 ducks and 16 geese. Two ducks have died while in care, and two others were euthanized due to injuries.
November 25, 2015 10:00 a.m.Wildlife:
As of November 24, 2015, 81 birds have been admitted for care, 46 ducks and 35 geese. Of these, 39 ducks have been released after completion of their treatment. Two ducks have died while in care, and two others were euthanized due to injuries. This leaves 38 birds in treatment.
November 23, 2015 12:00 p.m.Wildlife
Focus Wildlife International continues to treat and release waterfowl captured after having become oiled. As of November 22, 2015, 80 birds had been admitted for care, 34 Canada geese and 46 mallard ducks. Four of the ducks had died, two while in care and two euthanized due to injuries. Thirty-one of the ducks had been released after completion of their treatment. No geese had yet been released.
November 18, 2015 11 a.m.First treated birds released
Wildlife specialists released 13 wild birds saved from a vegetable oil spill in White Center to the wild today.
The mallard ducks were the first group of rescued birds to complete cleaning and treatment after becoming oiled in a King County neighborhood stormwater pond in early November. Sixty-one more – 27 ducks and 34 geese – remain in treatment. Two additional mallards have died while in care, while two others were euthanized.
Efforts to locate and recover oiled wildlife will likely continue in White Center and surrounding areas through the end of the week. People who see oiled or distressed birds should call WDFW at 800-22-BIRDS, but should not approach or handle the wildlife. WDFW asks dog and cat owners in the area to keep their pets under control, as oiled birds are less able to escape from animal attacks.
November 17, 2015 10 a.m.On-water oil recovery
Ecology’s contractor, National Response Corp. (NRC), is removing all boom and absorbents from the pond today.
NRC’s subcontractor, Focus Wildlife International, continues to stabilize, wash and condition the 69 birds in care – 30 Canada geese and 39 mallard ducks. In addition, two ducks have died in care and two others were euthanized.
November 13, 2015 1:30 p.m.Local business takes responsibility for spill
A food products company has voluntarily accepted responsibility for an accidental cooking oil spill that flowed through storm drains into a nearby stormwater pond.
La Mexicana, Inc., based in the White Center area south of Seattle, has discovered that the oil came from one of its facilities. The company has agreed to pay for cleaning up the spill and rescuing ducks and geese affected by the oil.
The Washington Department of Ecology has been coordinating the response effort, in cooperation with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and the King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks, which owns the pond. A person using a walking path along the pond reported seeing oil on the water and oiled birds nearby late Friday afternoon, Nov 6, 2015.
“La Mexicana has made our home in White Center since 1955,” said William Fry, general manager of the business. “We care deeply about our community and our environment. We are committed to protecting our natural resources through the continuous improvement of our processes, products, and services. We love our neighborhood pond and will do our part to assist in its complete restoration.”
Company launched investigation
La Mexicana began an internal review after hearing about the spill and that it involved cooking oil. The company determined that some of the contents of a partially full container of clean salad oil, used in the production of baked goods, accidentally spilled during transport on the night of Oct 30 at one of the firm’s bakeries, located on 16th Ave. SW. Part of the spilled oil – as much as 200 gallons – entered the county storm drain system on SW 100th St.
The company made this determination on Nov. 12 and immediately reported it to Ecology, offering its full cooperation with the response and investigation. Ecology followed up with its own investigation, and verified that the accident at the company is the source of the spill to the pond.
Even cooking oil impacts environment
Cooking and other edible oils, while less toxic to wildlife than petroleum products, still cause environmental harm. When birds contact the oil, it coats their feathers so that the animals lose insulation and buoyancy. Oil damages habitat for other aquatic life, reducing oxygen levels and creating physical impacts on the water surface and shoreline.
Ecology last week contracted with National Response Corp. (NRC) to clean oil from the pond. Crews succeeded in preventing oil from draining out of the pond, which flows into nearby Hicklin Lake. Only a few pockets of oil now remain on the pond’s surface, and NRC crews continue to tend containment boom and cleanup materials in those areas.
Wildlife rescue continues
A sub-contractor, Focus Wildlife International, has captured a total of 51 oiled birds and has taken them to the Progressive Animal Welfare Society’s Wildlife Center in Lynwood, where Focus is providing treatment. WDFW has moved its bird rescue trailer to the PAWS facility to provide additional treatment capacity.
One duck was euthanized due to head injuries likely due to an animal attack. Sixteen Canada geese and 34 mallard ducks are receiving treatment at the center. Eleven of these have received cleansings and will remain under the care of Focus Wildlife until they are ready to be released.
Other oiled birds may still be in a fairly wide area around White Center and nearby communities. WDFW asks the public to help in two ways:
- If you see oiled wildlife, please leave it be and call 1-800-22-BIRDS (1-800-222-4737). At the message prompt, give the location, time and a description of the animal’s condition.
- If you own a dog or cat, take extra care to maintain control of your pet. Oiled birds may not be able to escape when chased by animals.
November 12, 2015 11:30 a.m.Wildlife:
Thirty-four oiled birds – 16 Canada geese and 18 mallard ducks – have been captured by Focus Wildlife International, which is providing treatment at the PAWS Wildlife Center in Lynwood. Some of the birds have been washed and placed in a recovery area.
One additional duck had wounds to the head consistent with an animal attack, and this bird had to be euthanized.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has moved its bird rescue trailer to the PAWS facility to provide additional treatment capacity.
Other oiled birds may still be in a fairly wide area around White Center and nearby communities. WDFW asks the public to help in two ways:
- If you see oiled wildlife, please leave it be and call 1-800-22-BIRDS (1-800-222-4737). At the message prompt, please give the location, time and a description of the animal’s condition.
- If you own a dog or cat, please take extra care to maintain control of your pet. Oiled birds may not be able to escape when chased by animals.
The King County stormwater pond continues to improve. Some cleanup materials and containment booms remain in place, and crews are making periodic visits to tend them. These materials keep remaining pockets of oil from re-spreading to cleaner parts of the pond.
Ecology and King County staff continue to investigate the source of the spill, which was first reported late Friday afternoon, November 6, 2015.
November 10, 2015 — 4:30 p.m.Oiled Wildlife Reporting Hotline:
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife requests that the public notify the Wildlife Branch of oiled wildlife observations by leaving a detailed message at 1-800-22BIRDS (1-800-222-4737). Please describe how many animals were observed, the location of the animals observed, how much oil was observed on the animal, and whether or not the animal appeared mobile or incapacitated. Reports received from the public will be routed to personnel in charge of searching for and recovering oiled wildlife.
Members of the public are requested to stay away from oiled wildlife to minimize stress to the animals. They should not attempt to capture any oiled wildlife; as such efforts could endanger the safety both of the public and the animals.
November 10, 2015 — 10 a.m.Focus Wildlife International is now caring for 24 oiled birds – 15 Canada geese and 9 mallard ducks – at the PAWS Wildlife Center in Lynnwood.
- On-water oil recovery: Ecology’s contractor, National Response Corp. (NRC), will maintain and monitor absorbents in the pond.
- Wildlife: NRC’s subcontractor, Focus Wildlife, will continue to search for, bait and trap oiled wildlife, follow up on leads and tips from the public, and transport, process, and stabilize captured wildlife.
- Source investigation: Ecology and King County continue to investigate the source and cause of the spill and follow up on leads from the public.
November 9, 11 a.m.Cleanup and bird rescue crews continue their efforts in response to an oil spill discovered late Friday afternoon in a King County stormwater retention pond in White Center.
Workers made progress on Saturday and Sunday, rescuing oiled waterfowl and removing oil from the pond near 13th Avenue Southwest and Southwest 100th Street in unincorporated King County.
The Washington Department of Ecology is coordinating the response, in cooperation with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks. Ecology has hired a spill response contractor and a wildlife rescue organization for the cleanup.
The spilled material appears to be about 50 to 100 gallons cooking oil that entered the pond via the county stormwater drainage system. County and Ecology staff have been tracing storm drains to search for the source of the spill. No additional oil has entered the lake since a citizen first reported the spill late Friday afternoon.
Cooking and other edible oils, while less toxic to wildlife, still cause environmental harm. When birds come into contact with the oil it coats their feathers so that the animal loses insulation and buoyancy. Oil damages habitat for other aquatic life, reducing oxygen levels and creating physical impacts on the water surface and shoreline.
Crews from Focus Wildlife International have captured 14 oiled birds, four mallard ducks, and 10 Canada geese. The birds received initial treatment near the scene in the organization’s special trailer. They are transported for further treatment at the Progressive Animal Welfare Society’s Wildlife Rescue Center in Lynnwood.
Workers hope to capture approximately 20 other oiled birds, some of which have flown to other ponds, lakes or fields in the area. No wildlife deaths have been reported.
Meanwhile, other workers continue to tend oil spill cleanup materials placed in the pond to collect the oil, which has spread into a slick over much of the surface. Crews succeeded in preventing oil from draining out of the pond, which flows into nearby Hicks Lake.
The cleanup has reduced the amount of oil seen on the pond over the past two days. Ecology’s contractor will measure the amount of oil recovered in cleanup materials to better determine the size of the spill.
The on-site response effort, which involved 25 people on Saturday and 18 on Sunday, continues to step down to about 9 responders today.