Valdosta Daily Times

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September 13, 2013

Hawaii to let nature clean molasses spill

HONOLULU — Officials responding to a spill of 1,400 tons of molasses in Hawaii waters plan to let nature clean things up, with boat crews collecting thousands of dead fish to determine the extent of environmental damage.

The crews already have collected about 2,000 dead fish from waters near Honolulu Harbor, and they expect to see more in the coming days and possibly weeks, said Gary Gill, deputy director of the Hawaii Department of Health.

“Our best advice as of this morning is to let nature take its course,” Gill told reporters at a news conference at the harbor, where commercial ships passed through discolored, empty-looking waters.

A senior executive for the shipping company responsible, Matson Navigation Co., said it was taking responsibility but hadn’t planned ahead of time for the possibility of a spill.

The state didn’t require Matson to plan for the possibility, Gill and a state Department of Transportation spokeswoman said.

Vic Angoco, senior vice president for Matson’s Pacific operations, said the company had been loading and transporting molasses at the harbor for about 30 years.

Angoco said the company regrets what happened.

“We take pride in being good stewards of the land, good stewards of the ocean, and in this case, we didn’t live up to our standards,” he said. “And we are truly sorry for that, we’re truly sorry for that.”

More fish have died because of the spill than in any other incident in the area, Gill said.

The fish are dying because the high concentration of molasses is making it difficult for them to breathe, said Health Department spokeswoman Janice Okubo.

The spill occurred Monday in an industrial area where Matson loads molasses and other goods for shipping. The harbor is west of downtown Honolulu, about 5 miles west of the popular Waikiki tourist area.

Three days after the spill, several patches of discolored water were clearly visible from across the harbor where Matson operates, and fish were tougher than usual to see.

John Hernandez, owner of a fish broker across the harbor from Matson, said he believed it would take years for the waters to restore.

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