UPDATE: Wildlife experts rescuing oiled birds after White Center pond spill

(Photo added 5:32 pm, looking southward over the pond, toward SW 102nd)

FIRST REPORT, 3:09 PM: Wildlife experts are hoping to help more than a dozen birds struggling with oiled feathers after a spill in a White Center pond. A reader texted us this photo:

King County has sent this news release:

Crews are responding Saturday afternoon to an oil spill that was 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 we’ve covered on partner site White Center Now, but usually the problems have been on the shore, not in the water.

5:17 PM UPDATE: We’re just back from the scene, 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.

19 Replies to "UPDATE: Wildlife experts rescuing oiled birds after White Center pond spill"

  • Bbb November 7, 2015 (3:45 pm)

    Do they need volunteers?

    • WSB November 7, 2015 (5:06 pm)

      Bbb, we’re just back from the scene. We asked and they say thanks but no, they don’t need help – they have a contractor on scene for the wildlife, a contractor on scene for the cleanup, and if they need any more help, the wildlife contractor has trained people it can contact to join the effort. Adding the updated info and photos to the story right now. – Tracy

  • anonyme November 7, 2015 (3:46 pm)

    How the hell did cooking oil get into the pond? This had to be deliberate. I hope there were security cameras somewhere.

  • sophista-tiki November 7, 2015 (3:56 pm)

    mysterious ” spill”?, more like a dumping. By someone who fails to comprehend the impact of such an act.

  • Nick November 7, 2015 (3:59 pm)

    It most likely came from the storm drainage system that’s a lot of cooking oil that probably was dumped down a storm drain

  • Dawn November 7, 2015 (5:16 pm)

    Gross ignorance.

  • Mr. B November 7, 2015 (5:47 pm)

    Bad enough that wetlands are disappearing… now this. Poor birds, can’t win.

  • Northwest November 7, 2015 (5:53 pm)

    Won’t find me eating at any of the restaurants out there anymore!

  • chemist November 7, 2015 (6:13 pm)

    I wonder if someone in White Center recently deep fried a turkey but didn’t know what to do with oil afterwards.

  • Ron Swanson November 7, 2015 (6:32 pm)

    C’mon, people, you can just filter it through a nylon and reuse it! Then everything you fry tastes like delicious turkey.

    Or just burn it in an old diesel. SMH at someone pouring perfectly good oil down the storm drain.

  • Oakley34 November 7, 2015 (6:35 pm)

    I wonder what their prospects are for rehab and recovery. Thankfully PAWS is out there doing their thing.

  • Lina November 7, 2015 (9:07 pm)

    Man, this breaks my heart. Hoping it can be contained and removed quickly.

  • jetcitydude November 7, 2015 (9:20 pm)

    I love animals and have a soft spot for them in my heart, with that being said, this kind of irks me. They need to investigate and find out who’s responsible and fine them or whatever it takes to get the message across that this won’t be tolerated. Human ignorance knows no bounds.

    • WSB November 7, 2015 (9:53 pm)

      If it’s any reassurance, it was a pretty big response. King County sent the news release; state Ecology had multiple vehicles and crews on site, contractor NRC (spill responses of all sizes) was there, the wildlife contractors … They’re definitely taking it seriously. And we’ll be going back over tomorrow morning to get an update.

  • ACG November 7, 2015 (10:05 pm)

    That seems like a lot of oil. Is it a commercial business possibly illegally dumping? Restaurant or something?

  • D-Mom November 8, 2015 (7:38 am)

    I’m glad the city took it seriously and that the birds are getting cared for. I imagine this screws up their migration plans. Thanks to the person who first reported this!

  • Barbara November 8, 2015 (11:09 am)

    This was not a city response – instead it was a county response as the Bog is located in unincorporated White Center. The dept of land and water resources as well as King County Parks and the King County Sheriif’s office have put in a lot of time to clear the area of campers and keep the area around the bog clean and safe for this community. This “spill” is very sad as so much effort has been put into making the bog a good addition to the community..hope they can find whoever is responsible for this mess…

  • Katherine November 8, 2015 (10:19 pm)

    It was actually a state response. I reported the oiled birds and spill to the Department of Ecology on Friday at about 3pm. The spill response team was on site first thing Saturday morning. I am impressed by the speed and intensity of their response. There is still noticible oil in the pond, but they are not done yet. I expect that there will be more oiled birds, but with the activity they seem to be staying away.

    • WSB November 8, 2015 (10:24 pm)

      Thanks, Katherine. We’ve been out there twice so far, yesterday and today; the county sent out the only news release about it – county property, after all – but the entities on site, as I am sure you know, are Department of Ecology plus contractors NRC (spill) and Focus Wildlife. We’ll be going back tomorrow to check in yet again. – TR

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