Company behind Pearl City chemical spill explains what happened


The state is considering enforcement action against the company investigators say caused a chemical spill in Aiea last week.

The spill occurred on May 11, killing more than 600 fish in an adjacent ditch. The fish have been removed and warning signs have since come down.

Investigators traced the spill last week to MOC Hawaii, which sells industrial cleaners and operates out of Harbor Center.

The health department said the company accidentally spilled more than 70 gallons of chemicals in the parking lot, which was sent into a storm drain that led to the nearby ditch.

KHON2 finally heard from MOC Hawaii’s general manager Wednesday. While he refused to go on camera, he said the company is cooperating with the investigation and actually paid for the clean-up.

Two chemicals were involved: a car wash detergent and a dressing that shines tires. The manager said that on the day of the incident, he followed the instructions on what to do in the event of a spill on the Material Safety Data Sheets provided by the manufacturers of the two chemicals.

In both sheets, the instructions state that in the event of a spill, there are “no special requirements” and both chemicals “may be rinsed down drain.”

KHON2 pointed out both instructions to the state health department, which is responsible for responding to hazardous spills and acts as the enforcement arm in Hawaii for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“The Material Safety Data Sheet has a lot of good information that the public or the people that sell these materials can use,” said Keith Kawaoka, the department’s deputy director for the Environmental Health Administration. “However, it is not appropriate for all events and incidents, for example, the Aiea spill that occurred.”

Kawaoka was quick to point to the drain, which is there only to collect rain water and leads to other waterways.

“It could have spread to navigable waters, or Pearl Harbor for that matter, so we’re always telling the public if they have a release, no matter how small, to give us a notification and we’ll investigate it at that point,” said Kawaoka.

A witness who was there at the time of the incident also sells chemicals at his shop that caters to motorists.

KHON2 asked him if MOC Hawaii should have called officials when the spill occurred.

“It was too much,” said Tony Tadeo of Mat-co Motoring Accessories. “It’s going down the drain and it’s a solvent. Can you imagine me throwing this (container of car wash detergent)? I can kill a lot of fish just throwing this into a canal.”

The health department says while the enforcement action has not yet been determined, MOC Hawaii could face a fine of up to $25,000 a day.

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