Honolulu molasses spill

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The Honolulu molasses spill was a spill of 1,400 tons of molasses into Honolulu Harbor in September 2013. The spill was discovered on 9 September 2013.[1] It was caused by a faulty pipe, for which the shipping company Matson Navigation Co. took responsibility.[2] Molasses is an unregulated product, and neither Matson nor government officials had a contingency plan to respond to a molasses spill.[1] Natural currents and weather were expected to eventually dilute and flush the molasses out of the harbor and a nearby lagoon.[3]

Divers in the harbor area reported that all sea life in the area was killed by the molasses, which instantly sank to the bottom of the harbor and caused widespread de-oxygenation.[4][5][6] Members of various coral species were injured or killed, and more than 26,000 fish and members of other marine species suffocated and died.[2]

The Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. on Maui produces molasses from sugar cane, and ships it to the mainland to be processed and sold. Matson had been transporting molasses from Honolulu Harbor for 30 years and at the time was shipping it about once a week.[1]


On September 20, 2013 the Hawaii Department of Transportation issued an order that all businesses which pump products through port pipelines must provide the state with documentation about pipeline inspections and spill response plans. Previously no such reporting had been required.[7] The first such plan was filed October 18 by Kahului Trucking & Storage, a subsidiary of Alexander & Baldwin. Since such spills are almost impossible to clean up, the plan focuses on prevention and early detection, with regular inspections of pipelines and hourly monitoring of transmission operations.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c McMavoy, Audrey (September 21, 2013). "Pipe had leak months before Hawaii molasses spill". NBC News. Retrieved 11 October 2013. 
  2. ^ a b "Hawaii still assessing impact of molasses spill". The Garden Island. October 10, 2013. Archived from the original on October 11, 2013. Retrieved 11 October 2013. 
  3. ^ Basu, Tanya (September 17, 2013). "Hawaii Molasses Spill: Better or Worse Than Oil?". National Geographic. Retrieved 11 October 2013. 
  4. ^ Pearce, Matt (13 September 2013). "Molasses spill in Honolulu Harbor poses calamity for marine life". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 14 September 2013. 
  5. ^ "Thousands of fish dying as 1,400 tons of molasses ooze into Honolulu harbor". The Guardian. 12 September 2013. Retrieved 14 September 2013. 
  6. ^ Memmott, Mark (12 September 2013). "Massive Molasses Spill Devastates Honolulu Marine Life". National Public Radio. Retrieved 14 September 2013. 
  7. ^ Grube, Nick (October 18, 2013). "Hawaii Harbor Officials Tell Port Businesses to Provide Response Plans". Honolulu Civil Beat. Retrieved 25 November 2013. 
  8. ^ Grube, Nick (November 13, 2013). "New Molasses Spill Response Plan Concedes Environmental Danger". Honolulu Civil Beat. Retrieved 25 November 2013.