A warehouse fire caused hundreds of pounds of cooking oil to spill into Washington state’s Olequa Creek, killing the entire fish population for at least five miles, officials from the Washington State Department of Ecology determined.
The warehouse fire took place Tuesday, August 18, but officials are still working to contain the cooking oil, which spilled into storm drains leading into the creek, which itself feeds into to the Cowlitz River.
“When oil hits the water, in a sense we’ve lost a lot of the battle because especially in a river it’s going to move,” a hazardous materials expert told KOIN 6, a local news station. “It moves fast, oil spreads out, and we’re not right there when it happens so we’re playing a little catch up.”
Cooking oil is deadly to fish because “wildlife that becomes coated with animal fats or vegetable oils could die of hypothermia, dehydration, and diarrhea, or starvation,” according to the Environmental Protection Agency. “Aquatic life may suffocate because of the depletion of oxygen caused by spilled animal fats and vegetable oils in water.”