White Center company ‘La Mexicana’ takes responsibility for cooking oil spill

The Department of Ecology is reporting that ‘La Mexicana,’ a food products company has voluntarily accepted responsibility for an accidental cooking oil spill that recently flowed through storm drains into a nearby stormwater pond (see our previous coverage here).

La Mexicana, Inc. 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 business is located at 10020 14th Ave SW.

The oil went into a retention pond near 13th Ave SW and SW 100th Street.

According to their website:

La Mexicana was founded in 1955 and originally managed by Rudy Martinez. Martinez and one other partner manufactured fresh corn and flour tortillas in a small building in White Center, WA. The flour tortillas were produced two at a time on a small griddle, and the corn tortillas were machined through a tiny conveyor oven. An entire days production rested comfortably on Rudy’s lap as he rode the streetcar to make deliveries to the few Mexican restaurants in existence at the time.

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.


3 Responses to “White Center company ‘La Mexicana’ takes responsibility for cooking oil spill”
  1. george says:

    I love La Mexicana, and am glad they will be stepping up. I will continue to support this great business.

  2. elizabeth mauro says:

    I have been buying my tortillas locally from La Mexicana for years. I am pleased to hear that they love the duck pond behind the factory as much as I do. I am proud to patronize a business that is invested in our neighborhood and takes responsibility for it’s actions.

  3. Barbara DelGiudice says:

    I am so happy to hear about your quick response in helping the oiled birds and the pond! I love birds, wildlife and the environment. Thank you La Mexicana for taking responsibility for your oil spill. I hope this doesn’t happen again.

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