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EPA to join state in molasses spill probe

September 26, 2013
By AUDREY McAVOY , The Associated Press

HONOLULU - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Health said Wednesday they will jointly investigate a spill of 1,400 tons of molasses in Honolulu Harbor.

Investigators will study whether there were any violations of the Clean Water Act, said EPA spokesman Dean Higuchi.

"They're going to look at the whole spill incident and try to figure out who played what role and who was responsible for what," he said.

Keith Kawaoka, with the state Department of Health's hazard evaluation and emergency response office, said that the probe will look at who was responsible.

"We'll look at that, and based on our regulations and EPA's regulations, see what violations may have occurred and to what extent," he said.

The probe is just beginning, Higuchi said, and he doesn't know when it will be completed.

Up to 233,000 gallons of molasses dripped into the harbor earlier this month from a pipe belonging to shipping company Matson Navigation Co.

Matson said that the molasses oozed out from a section of pipe it thought had been sealed off.

That volume is equivalent to what would fill about seven rail cars, or about one-third of an Olympic-size swimming pool.

More than 26,000 fish and other marine species suffocated and died as the molasses spread and sank to the ocean floor.

Last week, the state Department of Transportation disclosed that inspectors saw molasses dripping from the same spot on two occasions since last year.

Inspectors first saw the leak while looking for storm water discharge in July 2012. The department followed up by notifying Matson and asking the company to repair the leak. Matson said it checked the pipe but didn't see any molasses dripping from it.

A separate state crew in the harbor noticed molasses dripping in May, but the department didn't tell Matson about this second incident.

The department said that harbor tenants are responsible for inspecting their own pipelines, and it's not the state's responsibility to check them.

The spill happened in an industrial area about 5 miles west of Waikiki.



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