PALMETTO, Fla.  – Congressman Vern Buchanan today toured SeaPort Manatee following the recent oil spill in the area. Buchanan was joined by SeaPort Manatee Executive Director Carlos Buqueras and Captain Michael Kahle, Sector Commander for the U.S. Coast Guard.

“Our local waterways, environment and marine life are incredibly important to area residents and Florida’s tourism-based economy,” said Buchanan. “With no evidence pointing to any infrastructure failures or pipeline leaks so far, it looks increasingly likely that someone may have dumped this oil and is failing to come forward. Whether an accident or purposeful, any potential bad actors must be held accountable for putting our waterways at risk. Just as water quality is critical to our way of life, Port Manatee is essential to our area’s economy, and I’m committed to ensuring both are safeguarded from future spills.”

On Aug. 31, SeaPort Manatee reported the oil spill to the National Response Center, which provides assistance in response and recovery for emergencies involving hazardous substances, pollutants and contaminants, like crude oil. On Sept. 1, the U.S. Coast Guard began the cleanup process and the investigation into the cause of the spill.

According to Capt. Kahle, 19,000 gallons of contaminated water were cleaned up from the port. Of that, approximately 3,500 gallons were very heavy, unrefined oil. According to Buqueras, “it’s still too early to define where exactly that heavy fuel came from, because we don’t handle a lot of heavy fuel” at the port.

To date, 97 percent of the oil has been removed from the surface of the water, and Capt. Kahle expects cleanup efforts to be completed this weekend.

“I appreciate the work the U.S. Coast Guard is doing, led by Capt. Kahle, to investigate the source of this spill and ensure it never happens again,” said Buchanan. “I look forward to the investigation’s timely resolution.”

two images of Buchanan standing by U.S. coast guards

In addition to being the Vice Chair of the Ways and Means Committee, Buchanan also serves on the Trade Subcommittee. He previously served as the subcommittee’s top Republican from Jan. 2019 to Jan. 2022. International trade is critical to Florida, where imports and exports support 2.5 million jobs. Through its 15 deepwater seaports, Florida exports tens of billions of dollars in goods and services annually, which range from aerospace materials, to citrus products, to travel services.

In Southwest Florida, SeaPort Manatee generates more than $5.1 billion in annual impact for the region and supports more than 37,000 jobs. In Fiscal Year 2022, products passing through the port included 11,030,762 tons of cargo, 404.6 million gallons of petroleum products and 125 million gallons of fruit juice.

image of Buchanan

As co-chair of the 30-member bipartisan Florida congressional delegation, Buchanan also has an extensive record of preserving Florida’s waterways and pristine coastline. He has previously secured $8 million for red tide research and backed a proposal signed into law by President Trump to provide more than $100 million to combat harmful algal blooms.

In 2019, the U.S. House overwhelmingly approved Buchanan’s measure to study the impact of red tide on human health. Buchanan’s amendment instructs the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to designate $6.25 million to research the long-term health effects of red tide and other harmful algal blooms.