Waterfront residents are concerned about the impacts of a cooking oil spill in mid-November not far from the entrance to their community and in a parking lot behind Main Street at Lakewood Ranch restaurants and a movie theater.
Although weeks have passed since the incident, some Waterfront residents say they have been seeking answers without much luck.
On Nov. 15, Waterfront’s Robert Griffith saw three East Manatee Fire Rescue firefighters hosing down a portion of the parking lot. As he walked across the wet area, he said he noticed the bottom of his sneakers were sticky.
According to an incident report from East Manatee Fire Rescue, firefighters responded to an oil spill from a dumpster. Approximately 50 gallons of cooking oil were spilled, and the crew washed down the area to dilute the oil.
Once the crew left, the “area was cleaner than before but still had an oily residue” in the parking lot, according to the report.
The Lakewood Ranch Inter-District Authority reported the spill to Manatee County.
Since the incident, the Lakewood Ranch IDA has been working in conjunction with the Environmental Protection Division of the Natural Resources Department for Manatee County to investigate the spill.
Griffith, along with Waterfront residents Bill Mariotti and Lisa Slyman, expressed concerns regarding the environmental impacts on Lake Uihlein as oil was washed into the lake from the dumpster during the cleanup process.
Alexandra McClory, a senior environmental specialist with the county, said Lakewood Ranch Commercial Property, which owns the property on which the spill occurred, has begun the cleanup process of the spill.
“We are continuing our communications with them and working alongside the Lakewood Ranch IDA to ensure that it will be cleaned up, and we are going to continue to educate and work with the businesses in the area to ensure it doesn’t happen again,” McClory said.
Although McClory said it cannot be determined how much oil made its way into the lake, she said it shouldn’t have as large an impact as motor oil or petroleum because the cooking oil is biodegradable.
She said there is “no correlation that has been studied between oil and algae.”
“Being that it is an edible substance, there is a chance it might feed some of the algae in there and it might look a little bit green for a while,” McClory said.
Manatee County is working with Lakewood Ranch’s pond maintenance team to monitor and provide any cleanup measures, if necessary, she said.
Residents also are concerned about the impact the spill had on the appearance of the parking lot and driveway into the Waterfront community.
Griffith said the parking lot and driveway is discolored and shows exactly where the oil and water traveled as it made its way from the dumpster to the curb along Lake Uihlein.
Slyman said there are footprints on the pavers near the community’s entrance and alongside the backside of Pinchers and the theater left from people walking through the spill.
Mariotti said Waterfront residents pay a maintenance fee that goes toward maintaining the bricks, curb, driveway pavement and more. In 2023, Waterfront owners will pay just over $32,000 in Community Development Districts fees.
He said it will cost thousands to replace the bricks as well as mill and pave the road.
A timeline on the investigation is not certain, McClory said. The Lakewood Ranch IDA will be responsible for any potential enforcement as a result of the investigation.