Transportation company Matson subpoenaed by federal grand jury on Hawaii molasses spill

HONOLULU, Hawaii – The transportation company responsible for a molasses spill that killed more than 26,000 fish and other marine life in Hawaii said Friday it has been subpoenaed by a federal grand jury for documents relating to the spill.

Matson, Inc. said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing that it was served with the subpoena on Thursday. The company says it has also received written requests for information on the spill from two state agencies and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The spill of 1,400 tons of molasses — about 233,000 gallons or enough to fill about seven rail cars — happened in early September in an industrial area about 5 miles west of Waikiki’s hotels and beaches.

Honolulu-based Matson says it doesn’t yet know how much the spill may cost the company. Matson said in the regulatory filing that government agencies haven’t presented an accounting of claims for costs, penalties or damages. Matson said it had received a small number of third-party claims.

The EPA and state Department of Health have been jointly investigating the spill, looking at whether there were any violations of the Clean Water Act.

The molasses oozed out from a section of pipe Matson thought had been sealed off, suffocating marine life and discoloring the water as it sunk to the bottom of Honolulu Harbor.

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

Unlike oil, gasoline and other more hazardous chemicals, molasses isn’t specifically regulated, state officials have said.

State inspectors saw molasses dripping from the same spot on the pipeline twice since July 2012. The first time, Matson said it checked the pipe and didn’t find a leak. The second time, inspectors didn’t tell the company.

Shares of Matson, Inc. were up 19 cents, less than 1 per cent, to $27.08 in afternoon trading on Friday.


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