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233,000 Gallons of Molasses Spilled in Hawaii, Killing Everything

This might sound like the beginning of a zany cartoon, but it's not. Molasses is really bad for wildlife, and the local officials are dealing with an environmental disaster

Image: technicool

On Monday, 233,000 gallons of molasses were spilled into Honolulu harbor. This might sound like the beginning of a zany cartoon, but it’s not. Molasses is really bad for wildlife, and the local officials are dealing with an environmental disaster.

Hawaii News Now says that thousands of fish are popping up dead after the spill:

Reef biologist Dave Gulko from the Department of Land and Natural Resources explained what’s happening. “We’re seeing thousands of them. A lot of fish that are in that very stressed situation in very shallow water. We’re seeing reef fish you’d never see. Butterfly fish, eels, etc… all right up next to the shoreline.”

Molasses spills don’t work like oil spills. Where oil stays at the top of the water, molasses sinks and sucks up all the oxygen in the water that fish need to breathe. According to the Hawaii Department of Health there’s basically nothing they can do to clean it up from the depth. Janice Okubo, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Health, told the Los Angeles Times, “It’s sugar in the water. If you know a scientific way to remove it from water, let us know.”

Here’s Hawaii News Now’s video from the scene, including underwater footage shot by diver Roger White. White told HNN:

“It was shocking because the entire bottom is covered with dead fish. Small fish, crabs, mole crabs, eels. Every type of fish that you don’t usually see, but now they’re dead. Now they’re just laying there. Every single thing is dead. We’re talking in the hundreds, thousands. I didn’t see one single living thing underwater.”

The molasses seems to have come from a leak in a pipeline near the pier. “I’m not sure there’s anything to do,” Robert Harris, the director of the Sierra Club of Hawaii told the Los Angeles Times. “They do have officials out there removing the dead fish to keep potential sharks from gathering, but I think the damage was too quick – once it was reported, it was too late.”

More from Smithsonian.com:

Four Deadly Disasters Caused by Food

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About Rose Eveleth
Rose Eveleth

Rose Eveleth is a writer for Smart News and a producer/designer/ science writer/ animator based in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Scientific American, Story Collider, TED-Ed and OnEarth.

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