Thousands of fish dead after 1,400 ton Matson molasses spill

Published On: Dec 24 2013 01:28:25 AM HST   Updated On: Sep 11 2013 04:05:46 AM HST

Reef fish, eel, predators and prey were are all swimming to shore, gasping for any oxygen they can get. The Department of Health said thousands have already suffocated and died. The molasses spill was caused by Matson's faulty pipe under Pier 52 at Honolulu Harbor.

"There are two large reservoirs that contain molasses and during the loading of molasses into a ship early Monday morning an amount of molasses was spilled into the harbor," said Gary Gill deputy director for DOH.

The DOH said that amount was 1,400 tons that's more than 200,000 gallons of thick sugar water. Biologists say the molasses is sinking to the ocean floor causing deep water fish to swim up the surface.

"They are trying to get away from the deeper water where they normally live because there's an environmental change down there. It's either low in oxygen or something is affecting their ability to breathe and it's causing them to come up to the surface and into our shore," said aquatic biologist Dave Gulko.

The DLNR said those severe environmental impacts are going to be long term. Nutrient rich molasses could cause an unusual increase in harmful bacteria and algae. But, the DOH said it doesn't know how to clean up the mess, so it'll let nature take its course. Instead, waiting for the thick sugar water to dissolve.

"It's not like an oil spill where the oil will rise to the surface and it can be skimmed out mechanically. There's no way that we've identified to reduce the molasses that's already in the water," said Gill.

Matson released a statement today saying: "Matson regrets that the incident impacted many harbor users, as well as wildlife. We take our role as an environmental steward very seriously..."

DOH officials are warning everyone to stay out of the water near the Honolulu Harbor and Keehi Lagoon because as the fish die it can cause an increase in sharks and barracudas.

The DOH is not sure what the consequences or fines for Matson will be.


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