Faulty pipe was not supposed to be in use at time of spill

Published On: Sep 14 2013 07:16:34 PM HST   Updated On: Sep 14 2013 10:39:24 PM HST

A complete annihilation of marine life in the harbor, that's how the Department of Health described the damage during a tour of the molasses-tainted water. 

A faulty pipe with a hole about the size of a fist was found at the end of Matson's barge at Honolulu Harbor on Horizons side.

The pipe, Matson says, was not supposed to be in use at the time of the spill. Investigators are still trying to figure out how molasses got there. It took days to find the problem under pier 52.

"At the time our neighbors had a ship in we had barges along the pier and we had a ship along the pier. Come Tuesday morning all that vessel traffic departs the harbor and we had a clear harbor all the way down," said Chris Lee with Matson.
That's when Matson divers found the faulty pipe. About 233,000 gallons of molasses already spilled out. The estimate of fish killed is now more than 13,000. Fish are still floating to the surface dead from a lack of oxygen.

Keehi Lagoon was closed with no commercial or recreational activity allowed, but the waters in and around Honolulu Harbor are busy with state and federal agencies taking samples of the water to study and continuing to pick up dead fish.

The DOH has 14 sampling sites. Crews are sampling three depths -- the deep water, middle, and surface of the water column.

"A few days ago, when we sampled there was virtually no oxygen in the water column ... Right now, we are seeing the oxygen come back to levels that can support marine life again," said DOH deputy director Gary Gill.

The DOH says the water is clearer almost one week after the spill. The solution from DOH and Matson is still to let nature take its course.

"Once you put your sugar in the tea how do you get it back out? It's dissolved directly into the water column. We have not identified and do not believe that there is, or ever was, a thick layer of molasses goo that could be vacuumed up," said Gill.

Matson says the pipe has been patched, and the company is considering closing the pipe with concrete. In a meeting set for Monday, state and federal agencies will discuss their findings and how they plan to move forward.


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