EXCLUSIVE: Wood plug used to stop molasses leak

Published: Sep. 18, 2013 at 10:14 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 24, 2013 at 6:46 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - One of the state's worst environmental disasters was plugged up with wood and cloth.

Matson Inc. said today that it installed the temporary fix last Tuesday after it discovered the fist-sized hole in its pipeline that leaked 233,000 gallons of molasses into Honolulu Harbor.

"It's basically a wooden plug with a cloth wrapped around it and you put it into the hole and it expands," said Chris Lee, Matson's chief safety officer.

"That has shut off any way of getting molasses into the water at this point."

Matson said the temporary fix was wrapped with fiberglass tape and plastic and was effective in stopping the flow of molasses. It also gave the company time to install more permanent metal seals -- or blind flanges --several days later.

But environmental activist say the response was inadequate

"It's a band aid but I think it's too risky. They should completely remove, shut that system off at the tanks," said Carroll Cox of EnviroWatch Inc.

"They have not (recognized) the seriousness of this and the impacts on the environment and the cost."

About 26,000 fish have been killed by the spill so far and the impacts on coral and other marine life are still unclear.

Matson has taken responsibility for the accident and has agreed to pay for the clean up costs.

The company also has temporarily shut down shipments of molasses in and out of Honolulu Harbor and is weighing whether it will continue to do so in the future.

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