A massive spill of thick molasses has turned Honolulu Harbor into a watery wasteland, with divers reporting that thousands of fish have been suffocated and environmentalists calling it a disaster.
“There’s nothing alive there at all,” diver Roger White told NBC affiliate KHNL after making a seven-minute video of dead sea life blanketing the bottom of the harbor.
“Everything is dead. They’re all dead and they’re all just lying across the bottom — hundreds and hundreds, thousands.”
A pipeline running from storage tanks to ships spewed up to 233,000 gallons of molasses – enough to fill one-third of an Olympic-size pool – into the water on Monday.
The shipping company, Matson Navigation, said the leak was repaired on Tuesday, but there’s nothing it can do to clean up the mess.
“Unlike with an oil spill, it’s a sugar product so it will dissipate on its own,” Matson spokesman Jeff Hull told NBC News on Thursday. “There’s not an active cleanup.”
The thick substance swamping the harbor and turning the water brown has already wreaked havoc with marine life.
“The molasses is not toxic but it’s heavier than water so it’s spreading around on the sea floor, displacing the oxygen-rich water down there, and the fish are suffocating,” said Keith Korsmeyer, a professor of biology at Hawaii Pacific University.
He said the the sugar in the molasses helps bacteria to breed, and the resulting blooms also sap the water of oxygen.
The die-off also could lure predators like sharks, barracuda and eels to the harbor and neighboring Keehi Lagoon, state officials said.
“This is the worst environmental damage to sea life that I have come across, and it’s fair to say this is a biggie, if not the biggest that we’ve had to confront in the state of Hawaii,” Gary Gill, deputy director for the Environmental Health Division of the Health Department, told KHNL.