An estimated 2 to 10 gallons of molasses leaked into Kahului Harbor on Sunday morning during the final loading stages of a ship bound for Korea, Alexander & Baldwin and state officials said.
The leak was discovered at about 10:30 a.m. and created a "small cloudy patch" in harbor waters, about 5 feet by 5 feet, said Janice Okubo, Health Department spokeswoman Monday.
Officials with Kahului Trucking & Storage, the A&B subsidiary that manages the loading of molasses at the harbor, depressurized the line, stopping the flow of molasses, said Okubo.
By about 12:30 p.m., there was no discoloration in the water, she said.
Water quality and marine life in the harbor were not affected by the "small" spill, she said.
While the response section of the Health Department was ending its involvement in the spill Monday, the enforcement branch was continuing its investigation into possible pollution violations, she said.
A&B, whose subsidiary Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. produces the molasses, confirmed the leak, which it says was 2 gallons.
"Our emergency response plan was implemented as soon as the leak was detected, and as a result the leak was stopped almost immediately," said A&B President Chris Benjamin in a news release Monday.
The cause appeared to be a break in a pipeline, he said, adding that A&B is continuing its investigation into the leak.
Okubo said that the leak appeared to be caused by a break in an underground line with molasses escaping through cracks in the cement. The site of the break appeared to be part of an older section of the line, which A&B was digging up and replacing Monday, she said.
"While the leak into the harbor was very small and quickly dissipated, we take all of these incidents seriously and will not resume our loading until the pipeline has been repaired," said Benjamin.
The loading of the molasses ship began Thursday afternoon, with pumping occurring on an intermittent basis, he said. The leak occurred during the final stages of loading.
The molasses is bound for Korea, Benjamin said.
Molasses shipments from HC&S had stopped following a 233,000-gallon molasses spill in Honolulu Harbor on Sept. 9. Thousands of fish and other sea life were killed by the spill, which triggered a multiagency governmental response.
HC&S reported producing 50,480 tons, or 8.4 million gallons, of molasses last year.
Molasses is a byproduct of the sugar milling process and is produced by HC&S in quantities greater than can be consumed and used in Hawaii, HC&S officials said.
The company had been selling molasses as a cattle feed additive through a distributor on the West Coast before the spill, company officials said. Shipper Matson suspended shipments of molasses in the wake of the Honolulu Harbor spill.
State Rep. Justin Woodson, who represents Kahului, said Monday that he was "very concerned to learn" of the spill at Kahului Harbor.
"In light of the recent spill at Honolulu Harbor and the previous spill at Kahului Harbor, we cannot afford to take a back-seat approach toward addressing this issue," he said. "I will continue to monitor the developments of this situation, and I will work toward identifying a viable solution that protects the interests of all parties involved."
* Lee Imada can be reached at email@example.com.