The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was a focus of rage for fossil fuel opponents. It triggered demands for alternative energy investments, a moratorium on all gulf drilling (later overturned in court) by President Obama and concerns about mass extinctions in the area. A common refrain at the time was that it would take decades for the gulf to properly recover.
A few years later things were more or less back to the way they were prior to the oil release. That’s not to say that there is no lingering damage; there is, with toxin levels still elevated in some local coastal life and tarballs still an being found on the shoreline… either a hazard or a nuisance, depending on your perspective.
What did not get nearly as much attention was the Honolulu molasses spill of 2013.. A pipleline owned by shippers Matson broke, leaking 233,00 gallons of the tarry substance into Honolulu Harbor. In contrast, the Deepwater Horizon spill released over 210 million gallons; if the only concern were the quantity, the minor attention granted the Hawaiian spill would be immediately understandable.
The two substances don’t have similar properties, though. For the most part, oil floats on water. Molasses, on the other hand, sinks. And, sinking to the bottom of the harbor, proceeded to coat all of the life on the affected area of the ocean floor. While the oil spill caused damage by choking some fish and causing bacterial blooms in areas, the molasses simply suffocated everything in its path.
Within seven minutes, the entire animal content of the ocean floor, and all of the fish that had been swimming between the pipeline and the bottom, was dead. Water currents spread the foodstuff for miles, where it further eradicated ocean life. As an industrial spill, it was far more damaging on a per-barrel basis than the famous oil leak.
Thankfully, the cleanup was fairly easy… sugar is water-soluble. But it reminded us once again that molasses, as innocuous as it might seem, can be a killer.
Question of the night: What’s a seafood dish you like to cook?