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Palos Verdes Shelf Fish Contamination Education Collaborative

DDTs and PCBs dumped in the ocean decades ago at White Point, near Los Angeles continue to contaminate natural resources in the Southern California Bight.

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Congratulations on the Achievements of the Palos Verdes Shelf Fish Contamination Education Collaborative

In recognition of their efforts to address fish contamination issues, the U.S. EPA has honored the Palos Verdes Shelf Fish Contamination Education Collaborative Community Outreach Team with the agency’s 2009 Citizen Excellence in Community Involvement Award.

From the late 1940s to the early 1970s, millions of pounds of DDTs and PCBs were discharged into ocean waters off the Southern California coast. Almost all of the DDTs originated from the Montrose Chemical Corporation's manufacturing plant in Torrance, California, and were discharged into the Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts' (LACSD) wastewater collection system. The DDT-contaminated wastewater was discharged for years through the wastewater outfall into the Pacific Ocean off White Point, in a submarine area known as the Palos Verdes Shelf. Montrose also dumped hundreds of tons of DDT-contaminated waste into the ocean near Santa Catalina Island. Additionally, large quantities of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) from numerous sources throughout the Los Angeles basin were also released into ocean waters through the LACSD's wastewater outfall on the Palos Verdes Shelf.

In 1992 and 1993, surveys by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) found that more than 100 metric tons (110 U.S. tons) of DDTs and 10 metric tons (11 U.S. tons) of PCBs remained in the sediments at the ocean bottom of the Palos Verdes Shelf. The highest concentrations of DDTs and PCBs were near the mouth of the White Point wastewater outfall, at depths of 40 to 80 meters (130 to 260 feet). Subsequent surveys by the Southern California Bight Pilot Project showed that elevated concentrations of DDTs and PCBs in bottom sediments extended from the Palos Verdes Shelf into Santa Monica Bay.

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The Palos Verdes Shelf site is a large area of DDT- and PCB-contaminated sediment located in the ocean off the coast of the Palos Verdes peninsula near Los Angeles, Calif. The offshore site stretches from Point Fermin in the southeast to Palos Verdes Point in the northwest, a distance of about 9 miles.

The award was presented to Ms.Yolanda Lasmarias, Dr. Howard Wang, Ms. Hee Joo Yoon, Heal the Bay, Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, St. Anselm’s Cross Cultural Community Center in Garden Grove, and Boat People SOS – Orange County.

"The EPA commends the Palos Verdes Shelf Fish Contamination Education Collaborative for its commitment and dedication to communities at great risk – especially non-English speaking communities - affected by the Palos Verdes Shelf Superfund site located off the coast of Los Angeles," said Breen. "The EPA’s Citizen Excellence in Community Involvement Award recognizes individuals and the community groups working collaboratively with the Agency to address environmental issues."

Since 2003, the Fish Contamination Education Collaborative (FCEC) has been working to protect the most vulnerable populations in Southern California from the health risks of consuming DDT- and PCB-contaminated fish off the Palos Verdes Shelf Superfund site, one of the largest contaminated sediment sites in the nation. The FCEC, as a part of USEPA’s Institutional Controls (ICs) program, works in conjunction with monitoring programs and enforcement efforts to address human health risks posed by fish contamination.

Through outreach to affected communities, anglers and businesses, FCEC provides education on the dangers of consuming contaminated fish, as well as recommended portioning and preparation guidelines. You can download many of their educational materials and curriculum from their website. See the links below.

DDT and PCDs on the Palos Verdes Shelf in SoCal

At the Palos Verdes Shelf, large deposits of DDT and PCBs sit in the sediments deep underwater. The chemicals came from area industries, including a large DDT manufacturing facility which closed in 1982. The Palos Verdes Shelf Fish Contamination Education Collaborative identified "at risk" communities, including local fishermen, and the Vietnamese and Chinese communities and educated them on the dangers of consuming contaminated fish, as well as ways to protect their health. The outreach focuses on not only getting the word out but also evaluating how people are using the information to protect their health.

The Palos Verdes Shelf Fish Contamination Education Collaborative also developed the Community Resource Council to provide recommendations and created the website to engage the community and host a wealth of outreach and educational materials.

Soon to be available, take one of FCEC’s online training courses to increase your knowledge and expertise on fish contamination off the Los Angeles and Orange County coasts.

USEPA is further protecting public health through related programs that supplement FCEC’s pubic outreach and education.

DDTs and PCBs dumped in the ocean decades ago at White Point, near Los Angeles continue to contaminate natural resources in the Southern California Bight. The Montrose Settlements Restoration Program is taking action to restore those resources. Bald Eagle restoration on Channel Islands.

Proposed plan for interim remedy will be released in June 2009 with a public comment period.

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Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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