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KITV’s inquiries about state's warning produces letter about pipe

Published On: Sep 20 2013 07:30:52 PM HST
HONOLULU -

 

Crews continue to monitor the waters where most of the last of the molasses has been pooling.

The area near the reef runway appeared mostly clear on Friday afternoon. A turtle could be seen swimming in the area.

But new information has muddied the investigation.

It appears officials knew about a problem with Matson's leaky pipe prior to the spill, even though up until  a few days ago they denied any knowledge of a problem.

"It basically identified a deficiency in our system. Moving forward, we need to tighten that up," said state harbors deputy director Randy Grune.

 The DOT only just released the letter today which specifically says that molasses was seen leaking of a pipe under pier 51B.

 Last week, KITV began asking about whether the DOT had sent a letter to Matson Navigation Co,, suggesting it might have a problem prior to last week's massive spill into the harbor.

But up through Tuesday, the DOT director and deputy maintained they had no knowledge of it, when KITV asked again.

 "I recall when you asked me, I said I was not sure, and the reason why was that I was not sure if it was attorney-client privileged information. Since then we've understood it was not, that's why we are releasing it today," said Grune.

We also asked Matson this past Sunday for a copy of any letter flagging a potential problem.

Matson's Vice President Vic Angoco said he had no personal knowledge of the letter until this week.

"I was not aware of the pipeline and the letter, it then came up this week," Angoco said.

As for Matson's response to  the letter?

"We sent the crew out to do the inspection on two different occasions-- at high tide and low tide. to do a physical inspection of the pipe itself, and to observe if there was any molasses leaking or if anything was in the water. On both occasions we did not find any molasses dripping or leaking in the area,” said Angoco.

State health environmental director Gary Gill said after consulting with the EPA and his state counterparts this week, he expects this spill will change future practices.

"With the worldwide press that has come with this event, certainly we can expect some nationwide review of this kind of food handling and any kind of state or federal  regulation on top of what we have that is required," Gill said.

 State officials say that while more than 26,000 fish have died as a result of the spill, they only collected one dead fish Friday morning, and that there were none on Friday.

They also said oxygen levels in the harbor have pretty much returned to normal levels. Officials will begin removing the warning signs and they plan to reopen Keehi Lagoon for recreational use Saturday.

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