Thousands of fish killed after massive molasses spill in Honolulu Harbor

Courtesy: Elizabeth Miles.

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Slideshow: Molasses spills in Honolulu Harbor

A massive spill of molasses into Honolulu Harbor on Monday is worse than expected. Thousands of fish have been killed and it’s also posing a threat to the public.

Crews can’t skim the stuff off the surface like in an oil spill. The molasses is mixed in with the water and there’s no way to get it out.

“I’ve been around the oceans my whole life. I’ve never seen it this bad,” boater James Connelly said.

Connelly took KHON2 out into the thick of it at Keehi Lagoon, where dark molasses has contaminated the ocean water.

The sweet syrup was being loaded onto a Matson ship through a pipeline. But the pipe cracked, dumping 233,000 gallons of it into the water. It’s now spread into Keehi and La Mariana Harbor.

“It’s sucking up all the oxygen. There’s no oxygen at depth. The animals that need oxygen and breathe it out of the water are suffocating,” Department of Land and Natural Resources Coral Reef Biologist Dave Gulko said.

“Look around the harbor and see fish gasping for air with gaping mouths. It looks bad,” Keehi Lagoon boat owner Clarence Callahan said.

On the surface, there’s dead fish. Lots of them.

Within minutes KHON2 spotted an eel killed by the sticky stuff. Then we saw more fish floating lifeless.

“Normally, the water is that blueish water and healthy area with marine life. But as you can see driving around, this is killing everything,” Connelly said.

But there’s even more to worry about.

“Anticipate there may be algae blooms or other environmental harms that are going to continue to upset the ecosystem and be a threat to public health,” state Department of Health Deputy Director Gary Gill said.

Matson Navigation is patching up the broken pipeline and regrets that the spill impacted many harbor users and wildlife, saying, “We are taking steps to ensure this situation does not happen again. We have a long history in Honolulu Harbor and can assure all involved that this is a rare incident in our longstanding Sand Island operation.”

The company could face fines of $25,000 a day for discharging a pollutant into state waters.

Health officials are tracking the spill and expect the currents to push it out to sea.

Still, people are warned to stay out of the water in the Keehi Lagoon area since all of the dead fish could attract sharks and barracudas.



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