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Honolulu harbor molasses spill: how will it affect residents & tourism?

Honolulu harbor molasses spill: how will it affect residents & tourism?

September 23, 2013

Nearly 1,400 tons of molasses recently spilled into Honolulu Harbor and the Keehi Lagoon causing thousands of fish to die and prompting warnings for beach go-ers to stay out of the water. While environmental officials say that only tides will alleviate the problem over time, how will the spill affect residents and tourism?


That’s how many people who have seen the damage describe the situation. According to the Los Angeles Times, molasses manufacturer Matson Inc., claimed at least partial responsibility for the spill that leaked hundreds of thousands of gallons of molasses into Honolulu Harbor and Keehi Lagoon.

Matson said that one of its ships was heading out for the west coast when a leak was discovered in a pipeline near one of the harbor’s piers. Authorities say that as much as 1,400 tons of molasses may have leaked into nearby waterways. The bad smell is likely due to the thousands of fish that have died since the accident.

Since molasses sinks, efforts to clean up the mess are futile. Only the natural tides will eventually disperse the molasses out into the ocean. In the meantime, Honolulu residents and the many tourists who visit there are likely to be affected by:

  • Increased risk of shark / barracuda / eel attacks. According to the Hawaii Department of Health, there is an increased risk of shark, barracuda and eel attacks in shallow water due to the abundance of dead fish. The Department is warning everyone to stay out of the waters affected by the spill.
  • Altered environment. Since molasses sinks to the ocean floor, it can cause an unusual growth for marine algae that could stimulate harmful bacteria and trigger other environment impacts.
  • Decreased tourism & restaurant usage. Hotels may see a decrease in bookings when potential guests are faced with spending their vacation on a beach that is far than what they imagined. Restaurants may also suffer losses due to a decrease in tourism and a shortage of fresh seafood – or simply from a fear that fresh food may actually be tainted.

So, who’s liable for these potential injuries and losses? That is the $60,000 question. In this case, it appears to be Matson, Inc. However, there now seems to be some confusion over who was responsible for maintaining the molasses pipes on the pier – the company or Hawaiian government officials.


Proving liability is not always an easy task – especially when insurance companies point fingers in every direction but their own. Having an experienced Hawaii personal injury attorney on your side can help level the playing field and give you the peace of mind that someone is fighting for your best interest.

If you or a family member has been injured or you’ve had a loved one die due to the negligence of another, it’s important to speak with an experienced Hawaii personal injury attorney who understands Hawaii law and can help you to recover the compensation for which you may be entitled such as medical bills, lost income, physical and emotional pain and suffering and much more. We are that firm.

The experienced personal injury attorneys at Leavitt Yamane & Soldner have been representing the people of Hawaii and those who visit the Aloha state for over 40 years. We can analyze your situation and determine whether you might be entitled to compensation so that you have the information you need to make an informed decision about what’s best for you and your family.

Consultations are free and we don’t charge anything unless we recover for you. Call us today at (808) 537-2525 and find out how our firm’s experience and compassion can help you.

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