Molasses Spill Could Cause Substantial Damage to Marine Life

Flickr: nerdcoregirl

State officials are rushing to head off an environmental and health disaster in Honolulu Harbor, where nearly a quarter million gallons of molasses from a ruptured pipeline have caused a massive marine die-off.

On Wednesday, colorful surgeonfish, pufferfish and eels were swaying limp or lifeless in the currents.

How much damage the molasses spill has caused was still being assessed. But health officials estimate that it's killing thousands of fish and damaging coral reefs.

State officials also warn there could be even more problems if they don’t quickly remove as many fish as possible from the contaminated waters. They worry that the dead fish could lure sharks into the harbor and Keehi Lagoon, where the plume of molasses has spread.

And the decaying fish could cause even more harm to the marine ecosystem.

“As fish die, oxygen is further sucked out of the water, leading to a domino effect of environmental impacts,” said Gary Gill, deputy director for environmental health for the state Department of Health.

The massive numbers of dead fish could even cause algae blooms that further deplete the water’s oxygen levels. Algae blooms can sicken or kill fish, as well as create elevated toxins and bacterial growth that can make people ill, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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