A Hawaii state inspector saw molasses dripping last year from the same spot where a pipe leaked up to 1,400 tons of the sugary substance into Honolulu Harbor earlier this month.
Department of Transportation Deputy Director Randy Grune said Friday he sent a letter in July 2012 to Matson Navigation Co. notifying the company of the leak.
The letter asked Matson to tell the department when the pipeline was repaired.
Matson senior executive Vic Angoco says the company responded by inspecting the pipeline twice but didn't see any molasses leaking.
The spill of about 233,000 gallons killed more than 26,000 fish and other marine life in an industrial area about 5 miles west of Waikiki's hotels and beaches.
Grune says the inspector was looking for storm water discharge.