Molasses Spills Into Ocean, Forms World’s Saddest Fish Marinade

Too much of anything will kill you, and too much of anything that doesn’t belong in an ecosystem will kill the creatures in it. Last week, a transit company company discovered that it had spilled 1,400 tons (233,000 gallons) of molasses into the Pacific Ocean due to a leaky pipeline. Yesterday, the company that operates the leaking pipe took full responsibility, and told reporters that it will cover all of the cleanup costs.

That’s nice and all, but how does such a thing happen in the first place? Matson Navigation Co. says that the gooey substance leaked into part of a pipe that was supposed to be sealed off and not have liquid in it. The problem isn’t really that it happened in the first place…it’s that the company didn’t notice. According to the Associated Press, a neighboring company on the harbor noticed something in the water that didn’t belong there.

One of Hawaii’s senators pointed out to the Associated Press that the spill demonstrates a “systems failure,” not just a single leak in a pipe. Why didn’t the company notice that so much molasses was missing? why was there no independent entity (say, a government) that inspected the pipe? Why didn’t a company that pumps such large quantities of liquid onto ships and transports it to the continental United States have a spill plan ready to go?

During the worst of the spill’s aftermath, an estimated 25,000 fish died, and there was a sticky-sweet plume in the water. Molasses sinks, you see, which could have unknown effects on the local ecosystem.

“We’ve let you down, and we’re very sorry,” the company’s CEO said on Monday. That’s nice, but now figure out how to keep it from happening again. The company has promised not to ship any more molasses until the spill investigation is over. Maybe they’ll take some precautions, like a spill plan. In the meantime, Matson handles more shipping from Hawaii to the mainland and back than any other company, and they’ll keep on shipping everything except molasses.

Shipper will pay for Hawaii molasses spill cleanup [AP]