Company Promises To Pay For Hawaii’s Massive Molasses Spill

By September 17, 2013NPR News
One of the fish thought to have died because of the molasses spill off Honolulu. Hugh Gentry /Reuters/Landov

One of the fish thought to have died because of the molasses spill off Honolulu. Hugh Gentry /Reuters/Landov

Matson Inc., the shipping company that spilled 233,000 gallons of molasses into Honolulu Harbor earlier this month, has pledged to pay all the costs stemming from the disaster that has devastated marine life there.

Honolulu Public Radio has the audio of Matson CEO Matt Cox saying his company “will cover the costs of this response, not the taxpayers.” In addition, Cox said that Matson is not going to raise its rates to pay those expenses. And, he said, if the company can’t fix whatever flaw caused the molasses to spill as it was being pumped on to a ship, Matson is “prepared to discontinue” such operations.

Matson has “ceased all molasses operations” in the meantime, Hawaii News Now reports.

It isn’t known at this point how much the cleanup and related costs will be. Much of the thick, sticky molasses has sunk to the bottom of the harbor. So unlike after an oil spill, it can’t be skimmed from the surface.

On Monday, the head of the Hawaii Health Department’s Hazards Evaluation and Emergency Response agency said the fish kill stood at “just over 25,000.” According to Hawaii News Now, “that’s more than 10 times what the Health Department reported on Thursday and state crews are still rounding up casualties.”

Why is the molasses causing so much damage? In an earlier report, Hawaii News Now:

“… did an experiment to see why molasses is so hazardous to fish. When we poured store bought Molasses into a vase of water we collected from Keehi Lagoon, the concentrated sugary substance went straight to the bottom.

“Unlike an oil spill, which can be cleaned by skimming the surface, the molasses quickly disperses to the deepest points. ‘It’s sucking up all the oxygen,’ explained [state reef biologist Dave] Gulko. ‘There’s no oxygen at depth so the animals that need it can’t get it and are suffocating.’ ”

Because the spill happened in a harbor and there’s less circulation than in the open ocean, it could be months or possibly years before the molasses is completely washed away.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
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Company Promises To Pay For Hawaii’s Massive Molasses Spill

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