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Keehi Lagoon closed because of molasses spill

EPA will help with response to environmental disaster

By Gregg K. Kakesako

LAST UPDATED: 07:08 p.m. HST, Sep 13, 2013

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources has closed Keehi Lagoon to commercial and recreational ocean activities -- including fishing and canoe paddling -- for public safety concerns tied to Monday's 233,000-gallon molasses spill in nearby Honolulu Harbor. 

In a news release issued this evening, DLNR chairperson William J. Aila, Jr. said:  "We are asking the public's cooperation to keep out these waters for their well being as conditions are unsafe for public activity due to risks of attracting ocean predators, as well as the possibility for contamination due to decayed marine life and bacteria." 

Aila added, "We are working with the Department of Health to post warning signs along the shores of Keehi Lagoon, small boat harbor and west side of Sand Island nearest Keehi channel. Our officers will also patrol the area to warn the public to remain out of these waters until water conditions are safe again." 

The closure affect two permitted commercial thrillcraft (jet ski) operations in Keehi Lagoon, Aloha Jetski and Diamond Head Parasails and Water Sports. These companies will not be able to continue renting jetskis to clients to use in the lagoon jetski riding area.  DLNR's Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation is also restricting any recreational use of thrill craft in Keehi Lagoon and the designated riding area off the reef runway.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is dispatching two coordinators to assist the state in its response to the spill that killed thousands of fish and marine life in Honolulu Harbor and Keehi Lagoon.

Sen. Brian Schatz said today that the experts in spill response could recommend a technique known as "air curtains" to protect particularly sensitive affected areas. 

This technique uses long tubes to oxygenate water and help disperse and break down contaminants, said Schatz in a news release.

The Hawaii senator added that techniques used on oil spills such as floating booms and skimming to contain the liquid are ineffective. 

"We are also in touch with the governor and his staff, and will work with them to ensure that all appropriate federal resources and expertise are focused on this spill. Through coordination, we can help to minimize damage to our natural resources, marine life, and businesses," Schatz said. 

"This is a serious situation, and it requires a coordinated, aggressive response at all levels of government."

The state has formally requested federal assistance with the response, he said.

"We need all hands on deck when it comes to protecting our marine environment, and that's why we are working to bring federal resources into Hawaii as quickly as possible," Schatz said. "I have been in direct contact with the Coast Guard, EPA, and NOAA to discuss how the federal government can aid with response and remediation efforts," he said.

Assistance through the Coast Guard's Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) funding will be available, and the Coast Guard will coordinate the response, with involvement from the state, EPA, and NOAA, he said.

In 2003, 50,000 gallons bound for a Matson barge leaked out of a state transmission line in Maui.

Matson has run a molasses export operation at Sand Island since 1983. Officials said they do not know how old the deteriorated pipe was where the leak occurred or when it was last inspected. The company hadn't used the pipe for years. The pipe had been capped sometime ago, but Monday's leak occurred in a section of pipe before the cap.

Matson said it doesn't know why the  leak was undetected or how long the spill lasted.

State agencies are looking into what caused the pipe to break and whether Matson will be charged for the cleanup operation and violations of the Clean Water Act.

Nearly 2,000 dead fish were retrieved from the harbor by Thursday.

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redneckMT wrote:
Matson will get fined and then they will raise the shipping rates so we can pay for it.
on September 13,2013 | 08:24AM
false wrote:
Probably and call it some kind of administrative fee or the sort and we pay twice since government is picking up the tab. LOL
on September 13,2013 | 11:02AM
EwaWarrior wrote:
So, who gets the fish and what will they do with it?
on September 13,2013 | 08:48AM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
The earth and it will convert it to methane gas mostly.
on September 13,2013 | 04:06PM
fiveo wrote:
Wondering if the story we are being given about this molasses spill is all that is going on. When a local TV station did a demo by pouring molasses into a container of water, the molasses immediately collected in the bottom of the container. It is reported that the fish and other sea life are dying from lack of oxygen. While this may be true of bottom dwelling creatures, just how is the molasses depleting the oxygen from top to bottom in the harbor. Should not the fish swimming in the upper level of the harbor be unaffected??
on September 13,2013 | 08:52AM
bluemoki wrote:
Pouring into a container isn't the same as pouring into the ocean, where tides, wave action, and currents mix the stuff together. Its not just the oxygen depletion that will occur, but the fact that the fish are breathing the molasses directly into their gills, kind of like if you were inhaling thick smoke rather than oxygen.
on September 13,2013 | 12:54PM
UhhDuhh wrote:
Fish live in the reef for protection from predators. The reef is on the bottom where the molasses dropped to so imagine somebody dropping a thick sludge over your house and cutoff your oxygen supply. Fish that swim on top do so only to feed or breed then go back into the reef for protection. If they always swim on the top they get eaten by predators.
on September 13,2013 | 03:50PM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
There is a definite coverup going on. Who in their right mind would incriminate themselves such as: "Mr. Jackson of the Maintennance Department skimped on inspection of the pipe, because who will find out?" No one wil ever know the real story unless there is a whistleblower. Matson will be fined and/or reprimanded and life goes on. However any increase in shipping rates from now on will be looked upon with suspicion from us.
on September 13,2013 | 04:15PM
FISHMAN20 wrote:
But will they get fined??!! The last I heard the government did not know whether they would get cited or not. Are you kidding me? Any boater that accidentally breaks a coral has all kinds of grief to pay. They even have a schedule of charges depending on how many corals you kill. How can it be they are not going to be held responsible? Seems pretty easy to have flow meters on the pumping and receiving ends to know if what you are pumping is getting there. Very sloppy management.
on September 13,2013 | 09:14AM
cojef wrote:
Believe, when EPA gets involved. someone is going to be fined plenty. Another media reported that the dead fish will attract sharks and other bottom scavengers so may pose a danger to workers.
on September 13,2013 | 09:26AM
allie wrote:
yup..A and B's monopoly really drives up costs out here
on September 13,2013 | 10:55AM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
Matson was spun off from A&B. Still Matson is monopolistic. Are there any regulations to discourage gouging of Matson's customers ? Maybe Matson regulated itself by making this big mistake out in the public eye.
on September 13,2013 | 04:20PM
bluebowl wrote:
Start oxygenating the water. Just like a fish tank a really big fish tank.
on September 13,2013 | 09:50AM
rayhawaii wrote:
223,000 gallons? Thats a lot of molasses before someone realizes theres a leak some place. ZZzzzzzZZZzzzzzz I say on the guy watching the pressure gage.
on September 13,2013 | 10:04AM
kiragirl wrote:
Yep. On one end the pump is turned on. On the other end, 'you sure it's pumping cuz nothing coming out at my end?' Negligence!
on September 13,2013 | 11:37AM
Aquarius1 wrote:
That is the equivalent of 45 x 20-ft containers. That is a LOT of molasses.
on September 13,2013 | 12:41PM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
Or 23 40 foot containers.
on September 13,2013 | 04:46PM
gobows wrote:
How many GALLONS fits on a ship and one time?? Who ever was in charge of that should be HIRED by the UNIVERSITY..............bwahahahaha!
on September 13,2013 | 10:07AM
allie wrote:
giggle....yes, it was a completely stupid move by the monopoly called A and B
on September 13,2013 | 10:55AM
false wrote:
Did you mean be appointed to the Board of Regents,,,,,,,,,,hahahahaha
on September 13,2013 | 11:03AM
Aquarius1 wrote:
It is the equivalent of 45 20-ft containers. Person in charge is Vic Angoco, VP of Operations.
on September 13,2013 | 12:42PM
kentfonoimoana wrote:
So the EPA is now here to assist the State deal with an issue caused by a private entity. That;s good news. However, that private entity should be on the hook for fines and the cost of clean up which should be mandated/legislated to not pass the expense on to its customers. That's what insurance companies are for. I'm shocked to know that the company involved were so negligent to not even know or have a planned response. It should also be required of them to perform regular inspections of all transmission pipelines including land based. In one word......Bozos!
on September 13,2013 | 12:18PM
aomohoa wrote:
Why should the taxpayer pay for any of this clean up? Matson should be responsible for every $!
on September 13,2013 | 12:26PM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
This is a fact gathering expedition, as the Feds will closely examine the damage in order to quantify a possible fine and/or bill to be placed in the InBox of the CEO of Matson. Then upon the conclusion of their fiscal year, the Feds' Internal Revenue Service will examine Matson's Federal and State Tax Returns to monitor any improper business activity. As they say what goes around comes around. The years and years of fuel surcharges have come to roost, to drop the other foot into Matson !!! Good for Hawaii consumers!!!!
on September 13,2013 | 01:09PM
Bully wrote:
The only thing the EPA is going to do is give Matson a big fine for violating the clean water act.
on September 13,2013 | 01:52PM
Slow wrote:
Sounds appropriate. What do you want? Jail terms?
on September 13,2013 | 05:02PM
pokerstar wrote:
competition time again; Don't we have ONLY Matson to prevent these foreign ships from SPILLING BAD THINGS into our waters// the brown act legislation or something like that. gee our sqeeky clean protector Matson did not even have a SPILL PLAN!
on September 13,2013 | 03:00PM
pokerstar wrote:
It is the .........JONES ACT..............NOT....the bown act....sorry about that......old
on September 13,2013 | 03:14PM
808comp wrote:
Both Matson and State inspectors messed up here. Fine one,and fire whoever supposed to have been doing the inspections.
on September 13,2013 | 07:01PM
2NDC wrote:
Class action lawsuit against Matson. Now they're affecting commerce and the public's right to enjoy the ocean. :-(
on September 13,2013 | 08:17PM
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