Matson settles Hawaii's claims over molasses spill for $15M

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

HONOLULU (AP) — A Hawaii-based shipping company will pay the state more than $15 million for a 2013 molasses spill in Honolulu Harbor.

State Attorney General Dough Chin announced the settlement with Matson Navigation on Wednesday, calling it one of the largest for an environmental violation in Hawaii's history. The $15.4 million includes a combination of cash, restoration efforts and funding for environmental programs, he said.

Matson is also agreeing to cease its molasses operation in Hawaii and pay for removal of its molasses tank and any remaining molasses, Chin said.

The 1,400 tons of molasses that spilled into the harbor in 2013 killed more than 26,000 fish and other marine life. Enough molasses to fill about seven rail cars oozed out from a section of pipe Matson thought had been sealed, suffocating marine life and discoloring the water as the sticky substance sunk to the bottom of the harbor.

The spill, in an industrial area about 5 miles west of Waikiki's hotels and beaches, shut down much of Honolulu Harbor for nearly two weeks.

"The resources made available as part of this settlement will now begin to restore coral and fund programs to assist with restoring aquatic life," Chin said.

Reaching a settlement allowed the state to avoid a lawsuit that would have taken eight to 10 years to resolve in court, Chin said.

Matson executives said previously that they were not prepared for the possibility of a spill, despite transporting molasses from the pipeline for about 30 years.

Earlier this year, Matson Terminals Inc. pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges for illegally releasing the molasses into the harbor without a permit on Sept. 9 and 10, 2013. As part of a plea deal, Matson agreed to pay fines and restitution totaling $1 million.

Now that there's a settlement with Hawaii, the company doesn't face any other pending claims, said Matson spokesman Jeff Hull.

Shares of Matson Inc. climbed 51 cents, or 1.3 percent, to close Wednesday at $40.07, and they were up 1 cent in after-hours trading.

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