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EPA Settlement with Matson Resolves 2013 Molasses Spill Into Honolulu Harbor

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a settlement with Matson Terminals, Inc. over federal Clean Water Act violations relating to a September 2013 molasses spill into Honolulu Harbor. Matson has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $725,000.

Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class James Moore with the National Strike Force Atlantic Strike Team, handles a water quality instrument used to monitor depleted oxygen and pH levels in the Honolulu Harbor, Honolulu, Sept. 15, 2013. Personnel from the Coast Guard, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration tested the water at various locations around Honolulu Harbor affected by the molasses spill. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Tara Molle)

“Dockside facilities must ensure their operations do not pollute nearshore waters,” said Alexis Strauss, EPA’s Acting Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “The Honolulu Harbor spill affected marine life, coral reefs and kept residents and visitors from enjoying the city’s incomparable coastal environment.”

From September 8 to 10, 2013, Matson spilled approximately 233,000 gallons of sugarcane molasses into Honolulu Harbor during ship-loading activities. 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 approximately 25,000 fish in the harbor and damaged coral reefs in the area. Matson no longer ships molasses from Honolulu Harbor.

Today’s civil action by EPA follows a January 2015 criminal action taken by the U.S. 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.

In 2015, Matson also reached an agreement with the State of Hawaii 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.

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