Notable Ethics Failures

Boston Molasses Disaster

The Boston Molasses Disaster occurred on an unusually warm January 15, 1919. A large molasses tank ruptured and a wave of 2.3 million gallons of molasses sweep through much of the North End of Boston at an estimated speed of 35 mph, killing 21 and injuring 150. The wave eventually hit the river, carrying people, horses, and houses with it. Witnesses said at the time of failure the tank's rivets made a popping sound like a machine gun. After the wave passed, the molasses remaining in the streets was up to 3 feet deep.

The tank was practically brand new. The company owning the tank claimed the tank was blown up by anarchists. However the company was held liable for the following reasons:

  1. The tank was poorly constructed and insufficiently tested.
  2. The construction crew neglected basic safety tests, such as filling the tank with water to check for leaks. When filled with molasses, the tank leaked so badly that it was painted brown. Residents collected some of the leaked molasses.