FOLLOWUP: The birds are back at cleaned-up White Center pond

November 24th, 2015 Tracy Posted in Environment, White Center news, Wildlife 1 Comment »

Thanks to Gill Loring for the photos from the White Center pond cleaned up after a cooking-oil spill, showing the birds were back just a few days after the first 13 cleaned-up ducks were returned. No way to know if any are the same; wildlife authorities told us they were not banding the cleaned-up birds or otherwise tracking them.

On Monday, one neighbor reported seeing the oiled great blue heron that as of last check hadn’t yet been rescued. The Department of Ecology says that if you see any wildlife in distress – please call this hotline: 800-22-BIRDS.

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La Mexicana takes responsibility for pond oil, says state Ecology Department; 50 birds being cared for, one euthanized

November 13th, 2015 Tracy Posted in Environment, White Center news, Wildlife 4 Comments »

(November 8th WCN/WSB photo)
One week after dozens of gallons of cooking oil fouled a White Center stormwater-retention pond, coating waterfowl with oil, the local company La Mexicana has taken responsibility, the state Ecology Department just announced:

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, 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.

“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 Thu., 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.

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FOLLOWUP: 14 birds rescued, cleanup continues @ oil-contaminated White Center pond

November 9th, 2015 Tracy Posted in Environment, White Center news, Wildlife Comments Off on FOLLOWUP: 14 birds rescued, cleanup continues @ oil-contaminated White Center pond

(Canada goose captured for cleanup, photographed on Sunday)

On the third day of cleanup at an oil-contaminated White Center stormwater-retention pond, we’ve just obtained the newest information from state Ecology Department spokesperson Larry Altose:

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 contact the oil it coats the 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.

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 were 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 Hicklin 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.

(Spill responders, photographed on Sunday)
Our first report, on Saturday, is here; our Sunday followup is here. As we’ve noted previously, this county-owned area of unincorporated King County had already been the subject of extensive cleanup efforts – focused on the land, rather than the water, because of problems with encampments and drug use during the non-rainy months – here’s a report from last month, published on our partner site White Center Now.

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UPDATE: Birds struggling with oiled feathers after cooking-oil spill in White Center pond

November 7th, 2015 Tracy Posted in Environment, White Center news, Wildlife 3 Comments »

(Photos added 5:40 pm)
FIRST REPORT, 3:19 PM: Cleanup and rescue efforts are under way after more than a dozen birds were found struggling with oiled feathers after a spill in a White Center pond. A reader texted this photo:

And King County has sent this news release:

Crews are responding Saturday afternoon to an oil spill discovered in a King County stormwater retention pond in White Center.

An estimated 20 to 50 gallons of what is believed to be cooking oil was found floating in the pond, which sits along 13th Avenue Southwest at Southwest 100th Street in unincorporated King County. Lab analysis of the oil will determine its exact composition.

Employees with the Water and Land Resources Division (WLRD) of the King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks were at the pond this morning, along with Washington Department of Ecology spill response personnel, to assess the spill and determine its source.

An oil-spill response team from NRC Environment was also on site this morning to contain and clean up the oil from the pond. A crew trained in cleaning wildlife was on its way to the pond to capture and clean the estimated 20 waterfowl that appeared to have been in contact with the oily water.

Stormwater system experts with WLRD will look into how the oil got into the retention pond, which accepts runoff from the surrounding neighborhood and helps clean stormwater runoff before it continues downstream to Hicklin Lake.

Shorelines along the White Center pond system have been a focus of cleanup efforts, as previously reported here, but usually the problems have been on the shore, not in the water.

5:57 PM UPDATE: We’re just back from the pond, where we talked with a Department of Ecology rep; others on the scene include NRC (spill response) and Focus Wildlife, the contractor there to help with the birds. While we were there, they captured one Canada goose that had been wandering in busy SW 102nd on the south side of the scene, apparently unable to fly because of the oil.

They found out about the oil because of a nearby resident who watches the area and often photographs birds; they haven’t traced the source yet but because of its smell and consistency, they’re fairly certain it’s cooking oil. What looks like a white boom around the edges of the pond is actually absorbent material intended to soak up anything that can’t be cleaned up.

The responders were going to work until it got dark and then return at first light tomorrow. The rescued birds were going to be warmed in a truck on site, and then taken to PAWS for rehabilitation. Besides the wandering goose, we saw a group of ducks milling on the sidewalk along the pond’s western side; the Ecology rep said they’d been there all day.

Most of the oil, he added, was on the north end of the pond.

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Go batty with White Center talk on October 25th

October 12th, 2014 Tracy Posted in White Center news, Wildlife Comments Off on Go batty with White Center talk on October 25th


Thanks to Michelle for tweeting that announcement, which we probably wouldn’t have heard about otherwise – McLendon Hardware in White Center invites you to learn about bats, 11 am October 25th. Just in time for Halloween .. but they’re not as scary as you think! More info here.

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Earth Day in action: Greening and cleaning White Center wetland

April 22nd, 2013 Tracy Posted in Environment, White Center news, Wildlife 2 Comments »

A beautiful Earth Day at the White Center Pond wetlands! Thanks to Gill for sharing photos, including a Washington Conservation Corps member who was out with a group doing cleanup and planting as part of ongoing restoration work here.

Some of the local wildlife posed with the new plantings, too:

The mallards (above) were joined by Canada geese:

The pond is not only a functional wetland, but also helps the area handle stormwater.

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Video: Coyote sighting in White Center Heights Park

February 16th, 2012 Tracy Posted in White Center news, Wildlife 2 Comments »

Coyotes are not as rare in this area as some might think, yet they’re still a startling, sometimes mesmerizing sight. Ted Johnson caught one on camera while driving by White Center Heights Park.

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