Amy Salim began caring for an oil-covered osprey when he was admitted to the Carolina Wildlife Rehabilitation Center on Aug. 11.
The bird, found in a pond in West Ashley, was rehydrated with IV fluids and given activated charcoal treatments to treat the effects of ingested oil it may have ingested while brushing or cleaning its feathers with its beak.
“He was just totally in it. His feathers were sticking together,” Salim said. “This may be the worst case I’ve ever seen.”
Ospreys are huge eagle-like white birds with black markings on their wings. They are not an endangered species but are protected under the Migratory Species Act.
Ospreys are unique in that they feed on live fish and can dive to catch them, which is how Salim said the one under the care of the rehabilitation center probably ended up in the pond. Two green herons were also rescued from the pond and treated at the Carolina Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, a nonprofit with locations in the Charleston, Myrtle Beach and Charlotte areas.
When covered in oil, ospreys and other birds cannot regulate their temperature and eat, among other obvious problems such as pain and discomfort.
The oil in the pond adjacent to Ashley Crossing Drive came from the 1975 Rio Chico restaurant in West Ashley, located on Magwood Drive. Citizens of a nearby neighborhood notified the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control, and the state agency visited the pond. with a superintendent from the City of Charleston’s Department of Stormwater Management.
On August 12, the city of Rio Chico issued a notice of violation and gave the restaurant a week to remedy the situation.
“I think it’s valuable for the restaurant industry to remember how important proper disposal is,” said Matthew Fountain, director of Stormwater Management, who estimates he gets 10 to 12 calls each year about “illegal spills” from restaurants. “It’s great if someone lets us know because then we can stop it.”
Rio Chico manager Victor Castro said a broken kitchen line caused a combination of grease and water to flow from the restaurant through the parking lot to a storm drain that flows into the pond.
There’s a grease trap about 100 feet between the restaurant and the storm drain, where Castro said the restaurant’s excess grease is deposited and collected once a month.
“Because it has rained a lot in the past week, it has gone very, very quickly there,” said Castro, who has worked at Rio Chico for 18 years, pointing to the August 15 storm surge. have the container there, so there is no reason for us to dump oil on the street.”
Rio Chico has hired Moran Environmental Recovery to lead the clean-up operations, project manager James Outten confirms. Outten, who first visited the site on August 15, was unable to explain what those efforts would entail.
Rio Chico was not fined and the City of Charleston will reassess the situation on August 19. Whether the oil was dumped intentionally or the result of accidental discharge is not the city’s immediate concern, Fountain said.
“Anyway, we’re just saying, ‘Hey, we need to get this stuff out of our waterway,'” Fountain said, discussing what he expects from Rio Chico over the next week. “Normally we want to see that there has been a real, significant effort in good faith.”
Other animals have been found injured in the pond since the osprey and green herons were rescued.
Two anhingas — long-necked, long-tailed birds sometimes called snakebirds — were on their way to the rehabilitation center on Aug. 15, Salim said, and several turtles will soon be transported to a local facility. An alligator was also exposed to the oil.
Some animals did not survive the spill, including a hawk and a few waterfowl.
The osprey and green herons remain in stable condition, but they are not out of the forest yet. According to Salim, the birds have undergone multiple washes — a stressful process that can require sedation — and will be in the rehabilitation center for weeks.
The recovery of injured and oiled animals is underway, Salim said. More than 20 volunteers have helped in the rescues so far.
“Our concern for the future is clearly to reduce the environmental problems,” Salim said. “It’s a very stressful process for the animals.”
Those who wish to contribute to the care of these animals can donate to the Carolina Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. For more information on how to donate, visit cwrcwildlife.org.