Underwater video uncovers mass kill from Matson molasses spill

RAW: Molasses spill kills thousands of fish
Published: Sep. 11, 2013 at 11:06 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 19, 2013 at 5:42 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The molasses fish kill is even worse than expected, according to the state Health Department and marine biologists.

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

We went underwater off Sand Island to capture the devastation on camera.

The Health Department has added crews to haul away the dead marine life, but that's still not enough.

At La Mariana, we found boater Russ Singer scooping out dead fish on his own with a rake.

"it's really sad to see" said Singer, as he filled an entire bucket in mere minutes. He collected dozens of mature puffer fish, eel, and reef fish, all killed by Monday's molasses spill into Honolulu Harbor.

"I can't stand looking at it" exclaimed Singer. "I think it's great if your cameras look at it too so people can really see what the real deal is."

With 233,000 gallons of thick molasses sinking to the bottom like a rock, we asked Roger Smith of Cool Blue Scuba to dive in with his camera and document the damage.

He surfaced with a bombshell: "There's nothing alive down there at all. Everything down there is dead."

Smith captured an underwater wasteland. Seven shocking minutes -- with no signs of life anywhere.

"It was shocking because the entire bottom is covered with dead fish" explained Smith. "Small fish, crabs, mole crabs, eels. Every type of fish that you don't usually see, but now they're dead. Now they're just laying there. Every single thing is dead. We're talking in the hundreds, thousands. I didn't see one single living thing underwater."

We were floored to see marine life wiped out on the ocean floor at La Mariana. That's close to 3 miles away from Pier 52, where the faulty pipe dumped the molasses into the water during loading onto a Matson ship on Monday.

We also found distressed fish suffocating, struggling to survive as far inland as Kapalama Stream.

Marine biologists said the effects in the harbor area will be long-lasting.

"This is in a bay so there's not a lot of circulation, so you're not going to have flushing of this water out," said Dr. David Field, a visiting assistant professor of marine sciences at Hawaii Pacific University. "So in this area where the spill occurred we're probably going to see the effects for a long time."

Field also has fears about what will happen when the water finally leaves the harbor area.

"As water does leave this bay area and goes out into the neighboring ocean, we can expect the effects in the long term, in days, weeks, months and probably years, to spread out over some of the South Shore reefs," he said.

The Department of Health has added crews to collect the dead fish and monitor water quality. Gary Gill said, "Unfortunately, the environmental impact will get worse before it gets better as we've seen with the fish kill."

Diver Roger Smith added, "Everything is dead. We have to start from zero because there's nothing alive."

"I think there's going to be a lot more effects that aren't so obvious and don't make as much of an impression as the fish in the video do," said Field.

Matson could be fined $25,000 a day, but has refused our repeated requests for an interview.

Today, a spokesman said "they'll do what they can," but can't clean up the molasses because it sinks, and they're only equipped to do 'surface spills.'

Our thanks to Roger Smith for taking the dramatic underwater video. You can contact him at coolbluescuba.com.

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