New underwater video reveals lingering molasses spill impact

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Exactly one week after Cool Blue Scuba diver Roger Smith documented a watery wasteland at La Mariana from the Matson molasses spill, we asked him to return to see what's changed and what hasn't.

Last week he dropped the bombshell "everything is dead."

Today, Smith told Hawaii News Now, "Good news and bad news down there. It looks like the reef, coral and seaweeds are still completely dead, but there are a number of fish that have migrated in, sardines, tropical fish, reef fish. Life is coming back."

Smith even captured a school of lively fish just seven days after he found no signs of life at all here underwater. Aside from a few dead crabs caught on camera, to the naked eye, it looks like the harbor is starting to recover.

To test our theory out, Smith collected three water samples from the bottom, middle and surface. We took them to the head of Hawaii Pacific University's Marine Sciences department.

"The first thing I want to do is measure the oxygen" explained Dr. Keith Korsmeyer who analyzed the samples for lingering evidence of molasses.

Dr. Korsmeyer said, "Okay so we're not seeing anything unusual in terms of salinity and oxygen levels which is good so maybe already some of the water is being replaced. "

He also tested for presence of sugar, saying "molasses is mostly sucrose. We'll do a simple test that shows a color change if there's significant amount of sucrose."

Sea water would turn yellow with sucrose, but all three tested remain blue. "We're unable to detect any residual sugar in the water at least at this sample site" said Korsmeyer.

The State Health Department said today water has returned to normal at all sites so their recovery should mirror what's happening at La Mariana.

But there's still a long way to go 9 days after the spill. According to Korsmeyer, "Coral will have a difficult time growing back, but once we have algae growing, fish, herbivores will come back to feed on those and start replenishing the ecosystem, but it is going to take a significant time."

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