HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Environmental Protection Agency will conduct its own investigation into the Matson molasses spill, Hawaii News Now has learned.
Sources say that EPA's investigation will be conducted separately from the state Health Department's investigation, which has been the lead investigative agency since the spill was discovered.
"I think it's a good thing the EPA is getting involved and it's entirely appropriate given the environmental devastation that we've seen happen rolling out in the last week and a half," said David Henkin, attorney for Earthjustice.
News of the federal probe prompted some state lawmakers to postpone their own hearings on the environmental disaster.
It comes just days after the state Department of Transportation admitted that it had warned Matson about leaks from its molasses pipeline more than a year ago but took no enforcement actions to stop the leaks.
"I do not have any faith in the state handling this matter," said local environmental activist Carroll Cox.
"I welcome the EPAs presence in this because the way matters have been handled didn't rise to the occasion. It was more casual, it was more gentlemanlike."
The spill earlier this month dumped 233,000 gallons of molasses into Honolulu Harbor, killing more than 26,000 fish and causing untold damage to coral reef and other wildlife.
Under its broad mandate, the EPA can order Matson to handover documents, assess fines, or even pursue criminal investigations.
Matson promised to cooperate with the state and federal investigations.
"We're very concerned about the environment. We're taking financial responsibility for the response," said Chris Lee, Matson's chief safety officer.
"We've worked with our state and federal partners to assist us in this clean up."