State partially to blame for molasses spill

Courtesy: Elizabeth Miles

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Matson Navigation Company accepted full responsibility for the molasses spill, but KHON2 learned the state is also to blame.

Matson said the 233,000 gallons of molasses spilled into Honolulu Harbor out of an old pipe that hadn’t been used for years.

Since Matson wouldn’t talk about their inspection program, KHON2 asked their landlords, the state.

The Department of Transportation Harbors Division wasn’t answering our questions, so we went to them.

After more than two hours, the DOT director came out, but refused to talk to us. But we did end up getting the answers we were looking for.

“The director will be sending out a letter to the tenants to ask them to continue maintaining and inspecting their facilities, especially in light of this,” DOT spokesperson Caroline Sluyter said.

“But there’s just a letter, no actual reporting requirements?” KHON2 asked.

“No, at this point there isn’t,” Sluyter said.

The lack of reporting requirements and even state inspections may show a leak in their own process.

The DOT says it is revisiting this policy and working with the Attorney General’s office on how to move forward.

“That’s part of the discussion. How that can be improved?” Sluyter said.

And soon that discussion will be made public, when the DOT and other state agencies will be asked to answer these questions in front of the state’s Environmental Protection Committee.

“I think legislators are going to be taking a look at the situation on the spot this coming week. There’s likely to be hearings in the next few weeks to take a look at what can be done better and make sure we are protecting taxpayers dollars and make sure they’re not the ones that are going to be paying for this,” said Rep. Chris Lee (D) Kailua, Waimanalo.

Although the price tag for this oversight and clean up effort has not yet been determined, the public wants to know that this will not happen again.

“Make sure the taxpayers aren’t left on the hook for it and make sure we can figure out what needs to be done to prevent it from happening again,” Rep. Lee said.

The DOH and University of Hawaii researchers have been collecting water samples all week to get a better understanding on the environmental impact.

KHON2 will be meeting with those researchers on Saturday, when they will reveal their findings.

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