Saturday, June 17, 2017

Antigua Distillery Hit by 2500 Metric Ton Molasses Spill

Molasses Flows Down into the Streets
    Antigua Distillery, producer of English Harbour Rum, Cavalier Rum and Kokocaribe Rum, discovered the molasses leaking from the distillery’s 2500 metric ton capacity storage tank, which was delivered the previous day. A thick layer of foam had formed on top of the molasses and was found to be leaking through the vents under the roof of the tank.   The ship was then immediately notified to stop pumping.  Once the overflow of foam subsided, pumping resumed and was completed by 10.30 pm.
    Sunday morning, the main storage tank located at the deep-water harbor began foaming over again. The foaming later subsided after a vacuum truck removed the spill-over molasses and additional truckloads of backfill were brought in.  Efforts to remove the spill have been underway since Saturday evening. Truckloads of backfill and a backhoe have been brought in to spread the fill, and to absorb the excess molasses both inside the distillery compound, and on the main road in front of the distillery.
     A water truck was also brought in to wash the main road of any residual molasses that may have traveled onto it from the storage tank.   The primary concern is the pungent odor emitted by the spill. The distillery is working to ensure that the situation will be fully contained by this weekend.  The distillery’s managing director Anthony Bento admitted “full responsibility” for the “unusual” incident, which is the first of its kind in the company’s 85-year history.
     “The company has always placed an emphasis on ensuring the environment is not endangered as a result of our activities.   For the past two years, the company has been involved in a pilot study with a US biotechnology firm to find ways of managing its effluent. This is a Caribbean-wide problem in the rum industry.”  Antigua Distillery are currently conducting further investigations into what caused the accident.

     Molasses spills are rare but can be incredibly serious, not only for the environment, but to people close by.   The most famous molasses-related incident is the Great Molasses Flood, also known as the Boston Molasses Disaster, which happened on 15 January, 1919 at the Purity Distilling Company in Boston, Massachusetts.  A large molasses storage tank burst spewing forth a wave of molasses through the streets at an estimated 35 mph, killing 21 and injuring 150. Almost a century after the incident, residents still claim that on hot summer days the area still smells of molasses.