Matson first notified of molasses leak in 2012

Courtesy: Elizabeth Miles
Courtesy: Elizabeth Miles

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The state told Matson that the pipe that caused a massive molasses spill was leaking more than a year ago, but nothing was done because Matson couldn’t find anything wrong with it.

The state sent a letter to Matson in July 2012 saying, a steady drip of molasses was observed from a hole at the elbow of the pipeline. A picture was sent with the letter identifying the pipe located under Pier 51B. It’s the same pipe that spilled 233,000 gallons of molasses into Honolulu Harbor.

Matson says it sent a crew to look at the leak twice — once during high tide and on another day during low tide.

“Both occasions we did not observe any molasses dripping from the pipe nor any molasses in the surrounding area,” Matson Senior Vice President Vic Angoco said.

In May 2013, Department of Transportation crews noticed that the same pipe was again leaking molasses, but this time, no letter was sent and Matson wasn’t notified. DOT blames it on a breakdown of procedures.

“It basically identified a deficiency in our system and moving forward we’re working to tighten that up,” DOT Deputy Director Randy Grune said.

DOT says it is initiating a more detailed system of checks and balances to try to prevent something like this from happening again.

Both the state and Matson admit that they could have handled the situation better.

“Now, again, that we’ve seen what happened and what such a spill could result in this type of release, then we need to develop a response plan moving forward and that’s what we will do,” Angoco said.

Matson has taken full responsibility for the spill and has pledged to pay for the clean up. The company says it will continue to cooperate with the state on the response and pipeline operations.

Matson could face fines of up to $25,000 a day for the spill. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife says in the end, Matson could be liable for millions of dollars in fines.

Matson says it’s also evaluating the entire piping system and will not resume molasses operation until it can do it safely.

Download: DOT Letter to Matson dated 7/31/2012 (PDF)

We’ll have more details coming up on the KHON2 News at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m.

Hawaii Revised Statutes §342D-50 Prohibition. (a) No person, including any public body, shall discharge any water pollutant into state waters, or cause or allow any water pollutant to enter state waters except in compliance with this chapter, rules adopted pursuant to this chapter, or a permit or variance issued by the director.
(b) No person, including any public body, shall knowingly establish, extend, or alter any system of drainage, sewage, or water supply, or undertake any project in sewage outfall areas where there may be a possibility of alteration of currents depended upon for dilution without first securing approval in writing from the director.
(c) No person, including any industrial user, shall discharge any water pollutant or effluent into a publicly owned treatment works or sewerage system in violation of:

  • (1) A pretreatment standard established by the department or the publicly owned treatment works; or
  • (2) A pretreatment condition in a permit issued by the department or a publicly owned treatment works.

(d) No person, including any public body, shall violate any rule adopted pursuant to this chapter or any permit or variance issued or modified pursuant to this chapter. [L 1989, c 212, pt of §2; am L 1995, c 180, §14]

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