Matson to pay $15.4 million for Hawaii molasses spill

The following is the text of a news release from Hawaii's Department of the Attorney General:

(HONOLULU) (July 29) — Nearly two years after the massive September 2013 molasses spill in Honolulu Harbor, Attorney General Doug Chin today announced a settlement agreement between the state of Hawaii and Matson Navigation Co. related to that spill. Under the terms of the settlement Matson will provide more than $15 million to the state through a combination of cash, restoration and funding of important environmental programs.

The $15.4 million settlement package paid by Matson in today’s agreement with the state will:
• Reimburse the state for cleanup, response, investigative, administrative and legal costs arising from the molasses spill;
• Regrow a coral nursery in a different location than Sand Island Terminal to help replace coral that had been damaged or destroyed;
• Pay for removal of the molasses tank farm from the Sand Island Terminal on Oahu and safely dispose of all remaining molasses in the pipeline; and
• Support the International Union for Conservation of Nature World Conservation Congress, being hosted by Hawaii in 2016.

The molasses spill resulted in the discharge of 233,000 gallons of molasses into Honolulu Harbor, contaminating thousands of acres of water and killing large amounts of coral and fish. In October 2014, Matson pleaded guilty in federal court to two misdemeanor charges for the spill and agreed to pay $400,000 in fines to the federal government and $600,000 in restitution to local nonprofit organizations.

Gov. David Ige stated, “Matson has been a member of the community for more than 100 years, and the company’s leadership understands the damage the molasses leak caused. The resolution allows reparations to occur now and helps see to it that such an environmental disaster does not happen again in Hawaii.”

“The $15.4 million in today’s agreement plus the $600,000 Matson already paid in restitution add up to $16 million. This is one of the largest settlements for an environmental violation in Hawaii’s history,” said Chin. “The resources made available as part of this settlement will now begin to restore coral and fund programs to assist with restoring aquatic life.”

Keith Kawaoka, Department of Health deputy director and incident commander for the molasses response, said, "Matson’s massive spill of molasses devastated marine life in Honolulu Harbor, despite one of the largest environmental response efforts ever in the state. This settlement appropriately ensures that Matson will no longer store or ship molasses from Honolulu."

Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) First Deputy Kekoa Kaluhiwa said, “DLNR’s natural resource damage assessment showed that some of the coral killed in the molasses spill can take hundreds of years to grow and are irreplaceable. We are pleased with the scope and severity of this settlement and believe that the resources it provides will help with our future restoration planning. This money will also help reimburse the department for the damage assessment we have done.”

“Since the spill in September 2013, HDOT has required all pipeline tenants certify their facilities and pipelines have been properly inspected, tested, and maintained,” said Department of Transportation Director Ford Fuchigami. “We will continue these efforts and build on them to prevent something like this from happening again.”

By Professional Mariner Staff