One month and $1.17 million later, still no culprit found in Port Manatee oil spill fiasco
Port Manatee during a lovely day. Photo courtesy of Flickr.

One month and $1.17 million later, still no culprit found in Port Manatee oil spill fiasco

On Sept. 1, SeaPort Manatee suffered a major oil leak, polluting 25,000 gallons of ocean water. Since the spill, over 20,000 gallons of water and crude oil have been recovered, but questions still remain. After a month’s worth of work and $1.17-million, the U.S. Coast Guard has now suspended its investigation, coming up short on answers about the spill that led to such an environmental issue.

Crews dispatched following the significant oil spill managed to clean out approximately 25,000 gallons of oil and water, as well as 6.4 tons of debris caked with oil. An estimated 90 to 95 percent of surface oil was removed. The funds to pay for this revitalization came from the federal Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund; the primary source of revenue for this fund is a $0.5  per barrel fee on domestic and imported oil. The party deemed responsible for the spill will be required to pay the cleanup and possible legal fees.

SeaPort Manatee has established that they have not found any matches during analysis of the oil found in the harbor, and stated that the port team members were the first people to notice the polluted waters, promptly calling the National Response Center for action by the Coast Guard on the issue.

The Coast Guard took samples from multiple vessels and  two oil pipeline companies to analyze for possible matches on what was spilled into the port. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) also decided to research endangered species in the area, thankfully reporting that there were no fish or wildlife harmed. However, there are locals and advocacy groups who are of the mind that the impact of the spill could affect the  environment, as the spill happened next to the area that was already heavily impacted by wastewater releases from 2021.

To that point, founder of advocacy group Suncoast Waterkeeper Justin Bloom has expressed frustration with how little information the public has received on the matter. “The bay has suffered record seagrass losses in recent years, even before Piney Point’s hundreds of millions of gallons of polluted wastewater poured into the Port in 2021, spreading throughout the Tampa Bay estuary and into Sarasota Bay,” Bloom said in a report by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. This oil spill is a major concern; though so little information is available to the public, we are challenged in assessing its potential impact.”

Swift action from the Coast Guard and  SeaPort Manatee employees helped alleviate some of the concern, as they were able to clean a majority of the area effectively. As to the culprit of the oil spill, the public  can only hope there will be more tests, and a resumption of the investigation into what could have been a devastating spill.

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