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Coast Guard strike team responding to molasses spill

By Sarah Zoellick

LAST UPDATED: 01:26 a.m. HST, Sep 16, 2013

An elite Coast Guard team that responds to oil and hazardous-material spills has been dispatched to Hawaii to offer its expertise in the response and cleanup of the 233,000-gallon molasses spill reported a week ago in Honolulu Harbor, U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz announced Sunday.

Schatz described the Pacific Strike Team, which is part of the Coast Guard's National Strike Force, as the "cream of the crop."

"These are really the all-stars when it comes to disaster response and management, and this is going to be tremendously helpful as we continue to work to get this situation under control," the senator said today in a phone interview from Washington, D.C.

Schatz said the deployment of the team puts Hawaii in the best position possible to ensure that the harbor's severely affected marine environment can recover as quickly as possible. Members of the team will work with experts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency who are already on scene.

The spill was reported a week ago today, but Matson Inc.'s incident commander said Saturday that the spilled molasses was likely pumping through a faulty pipe from Sept. 7 around 6 p.m. to the morning of Sept. 8.

Schatz said NOAA and the EPA were brought in Wednesday and that "a more full-fledged federal response" to the Department of Health-led cleanup, including the Coast Guard, mobilized Thursday and Friday.

"I think the seriousness of the situation became more apparent after the first day or two, and we've been very pleased with how the federal agencies have mobilized and worked with our state government to get a handle on this problem," he said. The state Department of Health remains the lead responder.

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frontman wrote:
I'm surprised obama didn't have them bomb the harbor, maybe next week.
on September 15,2013 | 02:04PM
eoe wrote:
Wow, how timely
on September 15,2013 | 03:33PM
inverse wrote:
Took over a week before they finally called a Coast guard "strike" team to help out, which means they are not yet here so add a few more days to the actual total response time. Seems someone has molasses for brains and took a while to get unstuck from 2nd gear.
on September 15,2013 | 04:27PM
localguy wrote:
Coast Guard to the rescue again. Just be sure to send the bill to Matson. Sad Matson willfully failed to follow state and federal law, no spill plan, no clean up equipment or plan, nothing at all. But when you are busy overcharging everyone to make more for your clueless CEO, what do you expect?
on September 15,2013 | 04:14PM
control wrote:
Better late than never. Too bad our public officials and matson waited so long and severly underestimated the impact.
on September 15,2013 | 05:02PM
gordyf wrote:
on September 15,2013 | 05:34PM
gordyf wrote:
This has set the harbor back 20 years. Not long ago I commented to a friend on how alive the harbor had become. Nice live coral and all kinds of different fish, no fishing and all. between pier 29 and 30 was one of the best little eco systems and it is gone now. The pictures of dead fish show some of the biggest Weke Pueo I have ever seen. Then there is the bait, the nehu and sardines in Keehi. I suspect they are all gone. Who knows what else. Aloha
on September 15,2013 | 05:44PM
DiverDave wrote:
I grieve for the dead fish, all organisms, and corral. However, this will be short lived, fish will return to this wave protected area. I am certain that while the pier was not owned by Matson Lines, nor the pipeline that had not been inspected for some time by the State that does own it, Matson will be happy to pay for restarting the damage corral.
on September 15,2013 | 08:18PM
hikine wrote:
For being surrounded by water we have no 'elite' Coast Guardsmen? And week is kind of a slow response to a disaster! Much of the molasses probably dissipated already, now what?
on September 15,2013 | 11:13PM
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