Thousands of fish dying as 1,400 tons of molasses ooze into Honolulu harbor (Video)
Thousands of fish have died in Honolulu waters after a leaky pipe caused 1,400 tons of molasses to ooze into the harbour and kill marine life, state officials said.
Hawaii department of health deputy director Gary Gill said on Thursday about 2,000 dead fish had been collected in waters near Honolulu harbour.
The fish are dying because the high concentration of molasses is making it difficult for them to breathe, said department spokeswoman Janice Okubo. Television footage shows some fish sticking their mouths out of the water.
The department has warned people to stay out of the area because the dead fish could attract sharks and other predators such as barracuda.
The brown, sugary substance spilled on Monday from a pipe used to load molasses from storage tanks to ships sailing to California. The shipping company, Matson Navigation, repaired the hole and the pipe stopped leaking on Tuesday morning, spokesman Jeff Hull said.
A senior Matson executive said on Thursday the company had not planned for the possibility of a spill. Vic Angoco said Matson had planned only for spills of oil or other chemicals.
As much as 233,000 gallons of molasses leaked into the harbour, Matson said. That’s equivalent to what would fill about seven rail cars or about one-third of an Olympic-sized swimming pool.
Underwater video taken by Honolulu television station Hawaii News Now showed dead fish, crabs and eels scattered along the ocean floor of the harbor and the water tinted a yellowish brown.
State officials expect the spill’s brown plume will remain visible for weeks as tides and currents flush the molasses into the nearby Keehi Lagoon and out to sea. Gill said officials believed the best plan was to let currents flush out and dilute the molasses.
There’s a possibility the state could fine Matson for violations of the Clean Water Act after the department investigates the circumstances of the spill, Okubo said. The state’s focus is currently on public safety, she said.
The state was documenting the fish it collected and keeping them on ice for possible testing. Officials were also collecting water samples. The data will allow the department to estimate the duration and severity of the contamination.
Matson ships molasses from Hawaii to the mainland about once a week. Molasses are a made at Hawaii’s last sugar plantation, run by Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. on Maui.
Matson said in a statement it takes its role an environmental steward very seriously. The company is taking steps ensure spills don’t occur in the future, it said.
Source: The Guardian