Matson faces tough questions on massive molasses spill in Honolulu Harbor

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Every week, Matson brings in 1,600 to 2,000 tons of molasses from Maui and then pumps it from storage tanks onto ships exporting it to the mainland.

They’ve been doing it for 30 years and they explained how this past Monday, something went wrong.

“Where this leak occurred was on a riser that was capped off. I don’t know how many years ago,” said Vic Angoco, Senior Vice President for Maston Navigation Company’s Pacific Region.

The leak occurred in a pipe underneath a dock, spilling 233,000 gallons of molasses into the Honolulu Harbor.

It’s a pipe that Matson claims they didn’t even know existed.

KHON2 wanted to know how long the molasses spill went unnoticed.

“I can’t tell you. I don’t want to speculate. I can’t tell you how long that molasses was going into the water,” Angoco said.

So how did a pipe go unnoticed and when were the last inspections done?

It’s another question Matson was unable to answer.

“I’m not saying I don’t have any records. I have not looked into that detail yet,” Angoco said.

So KHON2 asked the state Department of Transportation — the landlords of the pier and all operations.

“It’s not our responsibility to inspect it, it’s the tenant’s responsibility,” DOT spokesperson Caroline Sluyter said.

These are all questions that the state and Matson will now be asked to answer in front of a panel of lawmakers.

The House Environmental Protection Committee is scheduling a hearing next week.

In the meantime, state agencies are racking up the bill trying to clean up the mess, collecting dead fish and water samples. They’ve tripled their resources since Monday.

“We’re taking 10 samples at three levels, surface mid-level, and near the bottom of the harbor,” state Department of Health Deputy Director Gary Gill said.

They believe the worst has passed, but it’s just the beginning for Matson and this investigation.

“It sounds like you’re willing to pick up the tab. It could be millions of dollars. Is that going to be a cost that is passed onto the customers and consumers?” KHON2 asked.

“I can’t answer the question. All we’re going to focus on our responsibility now,” Angoco said.

The state and Matson both said they did not have an emergency response plan in place for the molasses spill.

KHON2 will continue pressing until these issues are addressed.

Several businesses tell KHON2 they’ve been affected.

Anyone who’s lost money because of the spill can call (808) 848-8300. It’s a claims line set up by Matson.

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