EPA plans hearings on DDT deposit

June 23, 2009 1:28:12 PM PDT
The Environmental Protection Agency plans to hold the first of several public hearings on a proposal to deal with a vast, long-neglected deposit of the pesticide DDT on the ocean floor off Southern California's Palos Verdes Peninsula.The estimated $36 million proposal, to be discussed Tuesday, would place a cap of sand over the most contaminated part of the 17-square-mile area declared a Superfund site in 1996.

Environmentalists said they were pleased to see work might finally begin in 2011 on the polluted site.

"I think it's a huge development," said Mark Gold, the executive director of the watchdog group Heal the Bay who has been involved with the issue for two decades.

"We have the worst DDT hotspot in the entire U.S.," he said. "That we're still stuck with this horrible legacy decades later is awful."

From 1947 to 1971, the Montrose Chemical Corp. released tons of the banned pesticide and 10 tons of toxic PCBs into Los Angeles sewers, which then emptied into the Pacific Ocean.

The pesticide manufacturing process also contaminated the groundwater and surface soil at the Montrose plant property several miles inland.

The EPA estimates that over 1,700 tons of DDT were discharged between the late 1950s and early 1970s, when the poison was finally banned. Several other industries also discharged PCBs into the sewer system.

In 2000, the now-defunct Montrose firm and two other chemical companies agreed to pay a total of $73 million to help restore the ocean environment off Palos Verdes, north of Long Beach.