Sticky Situation: Hawaii Molasses Spill Killing Thousands of Fish

Sep 12, 2013 12:32 PM

A massive spill of thick molasses has turned Honolulu Harbor into a watery wasteland, with divers reporting that thousands of fish have been suffocated and environmentalists calling it a disaster.

“There’s nothing alive there at all,” diver Roger White told NBC affiliate KHNL after making a seven-minute video of dead sea life blanketing the bottom of the harbor.

“Everything is dead. They’re all dead and they’re all just lying across the bottom -- hundreds and hundreds, thousands.”

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A pipeline running from storage tanks to ships spewed up to 233,000 gallons of molasses – enough to fill one-third of an Olympic-size pool – into the water on Monday.

The shipping company, Matson Navigation, said the leak was repaired on Tuesday, but there's nothing it can do to clean up the mess.

"Unlike with an oil spill, it’s a sugar product so it will dissipate on its own," Matson spokesman Jeff Hull told NBC News on Thursday. "There’s not an active cleanup."

Sate officials said the thick substance swamping the harbor and turning the water brown has already wreaked havoc with marine life, making it difficult for fish and other creatures to breathe.

The die-off could lure predators like sharks, barracuda and eels to the harbor and neighboring Keehi Lagoon and cause a spike in algae and bacteria, they said.

"This is the worst environmental damage to sea life that I have come across, and it’s fair to say this is a biggie, if not the biggest that we've had to confront in the state of Hawaii," Gary Gill, deputy director for the Environmental Health Division of the Health Department, told KHNL.

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