Mysterious Substance Oozing From Ground Draws Concern

By Jason Hall

January 18, 2022

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A mysterious substance oozing from the ground at one of Hawaii's first sugar mills has local residents and environmentalists concerned.

Hawaii News Now reports the strange, tar-like substance was recently discovered at Pioneer Mill in Lahaina, which opened in 1860 and was considered the backbone of West Maui's economy for 139 years.

The land is currently owned by Kaanapali Land Management Corporation and parts of the property are leased off to businesses in the area.

“We know that historically, that when the mill was operating, they were storing and using all kinds of chemicals which wouldn’t be allowed today, and I don’t know to what extent they’ve ever cleaned it up,” said Kirk Boes, a concerned local resident, via Hawaii News Now.

Trinity Enviormental Solutions was hired to check the area for environmental hazards in August, eventually finding the strange substance coming from the ground during its survey.

“We could smell like rancid oil,” said Trinity Environmental Solutions owner Christy Kajiwara-Gusman via Hawaii News Now.

Kajiwara-Gusman said she followed the smell until she discovered a tank on the west end of the property, which was located in an area covered by wooden pallets, before finally noticing the tar in the ground.

Kajiwara-Gusman said it was difficult to measure the depth of the patch, but said it seemed to be about 40 feet in diameter.

She said she contacted county and state officials but wanted to make sure the public was aware of the discovery.

“With the Red Hill thing, when that came out, I was like ‘Oh my gosh, what if we’re sitting on something like this?’ And knowing that there’s housing coming up next door, my concern was more for the community, what if this thing goes into the water system?” said Gusman via Hawaii News Now.

Chad Fukunaga issued the following statement on behalf of Kaanapali Land Management Corp in relation to the substance's discovery via Hawaii News Now:

“Pioneer Mill Company, LLC (”Pioneer Mill”) engaged an environmental consultant to investigate the discovery of a relatively small patch of tar-like material. The material was found on Pioneer Mill’s property near its coffee mill. The preliminary assessment is that the material does not appear to be hazardous. Pioneer Mill is coordinating with the authorities and continues to investigate the matter.”

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