The Washington Department of Ecology, other agencies and contractors spent weeks cleaning up the vegetable oil, and catching and cleaning more than 80 oiled birds in November and December 2015. The response efforts and cleanup work totaled $333,729, and about $250,000 of this amount was dedicated to wildlife response. La Mexicana said it will pay for the bill.
La Mexicana voluntarily accepted responsibility after realizing the spill had occurred at its White Center facility.
The spill happened on Oct. 30, 2015, when a 200 gallon container of cooking oil accidentally tipped over and spilled an estimated 175 gallons into a storm drain. That storm drain emptied into the White Center pond a few blocks away.
“La Mexicana became an involved response partner as soon as they realized the oil in the pond and the impacted wildlife were a result of the spill at their facility,” said David Byers, Ecology’s spill response supervisor.
Since the spill, La Mexicana has purchased spill response equipment, posted instructions and trained employees to contain, clean up and immediately report future spills.
Cooking and other edible oils, while less toxic to wildlife than petroleum products, cause environmental harm. The oil coats birds’ feathers causing them to lose insulation and buoyancy. Oil also damages habitat for other aquatic life by reducing oxygen levels and creating physical impacts on the water surface and shoreline.
“La Mexicana cares deeply about our community and the environment. We are grateful that we were able to partner with the Department of Ecology to restore the pond and the impacted wildlife. La Mexicana has implemented robust programs to ensure the protection of our natural resources, and the continuous improvement of our processes, products, and services,” said William Fry, general manager of La Mexicana.
Along with cost recovery, the state issued a separate $4,813.83 damage assessment to La Mexicana for harm to natural, cultural and publically owned resources. The assessment is based on the amount spilled and the resources placed at risk.
Ecology also fined La Mexicana $2,000 for spilling oil and failing to promptly report the spill. Ecology penalties may be appealed to the Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board.