By Mark Edward Nero
The US Environmental Protection Agency has reached a settlement agreement with Matson Terminals Inc. regarding federal Clean Water Act violations relating to a September 2013 molasses spill into Honolulu Harbor, the EPA announced.
Matson has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $725,000, according to the EPA.
From Sept. 8 to Sept. 10, 2013, Matson spilled roughly 233,000 gallons of sugarcane molasses into Honolulu Harbor during ship-loading activities, the EPA said. The spill occurred from a section of pipe that the Hawaii Department of Transportation found was leaking in 2012, and reported to Matson.
The molasses discharge killed an estimated 25,000 fish in the harbor and damaged coral reefs in the area.
Matson no longer ships molasses from Honolulu Harbor after it reached an agreement with the state of Hawaii in 2015 to cease transporting molasses through Honolulu Harbor, remove the molasses distribution system, pay for re-growing corals that were damaged or destroyed, and reimburse related cleanup costs.
“Dockside facilities must ensure their operations do not pollute nearshore waters,” Alexis Strauss, the EPA’s acting regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest said in a statement. “The Honolulu Harbor spill affected marine life, coral reefs and kept residents and visitors from enjoying the city’s incomparable coastal environment.”
The EPA’s civil action followed a January 2015 criminal action taken by the US Attorney’s Office against Matson, in which Matson paid a $400,000 fine plus restitution of $600,000 after pleading guilty to criminal charges of unlawfully discharging molasses into Honolulu Harbor. Under the terms of the plea agreement, the restitution was divided equally between the Waikiki Aquarium to support coral reef programs and invasive algae cleanups and Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii to inspire local communities to care for coastlines through beach cleanups.