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U.S. EPA PROPOSES PLAN TO ADDRESS CONTAMINATED FISH

Release Date: 3/29/2000
Contact Information: Randy Wittorp, U.S. EPA, 415-744-1589

     White Croaker on Palos Verdes Shelf contain DDT and PCBs

     SAN FRANCISCO -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today proposed a three-prong strategy to prevent people from consuming fish containing high levels of DDT and PCBs found in contaminated ocean sediments off the Palos Verdes peninsula.

     "This is the largest DDT contamination site in the country,"  said Keith Takata, EPA's regional Superfund division director.  "The first step to protect public health is to make sure people aren't eating white croaker contaminated with dangerous levels of DDT."

     The EPA plan recommends three short term actions: increasing enforcement of the commercial fishing ban and recreational catch limit for white croaker along the Palos Verdes coast, educating people about fish consumption advisories and monitoring contaminant levels in commercially sold fish to evaluate the effectiveness of enforcement measures.

     For the past several years, the EPA has been investigating the 100 tons of DDT and 10 tons of PCBs that remain in ocean sediments on the Palos Verdes shelf.  In ocean waters there, DDT concentrations have been recently measured at levels nearly 100 times greater than the California Ocean Plan objectives for the protection of human health.

     Eating DDT and PCB contaminated fish, like white croaker from the Palos Verdes area, could increase cancer risks for adults.  Also, a diet including Palos Verdes white croaker could affect the liver and nervous system in adults, and the development of nursing infants whose mothers regularly consume the fish.

     DDT and PCBs are also moving from contaminated sediments into the water, threatening the health of wildlife.  When DDT and PCBs move into the food chain, they accumulate in fish tissue and harm fish-eating birds, marine mammals and birds of prey that feed on both.

     In addition to the proposed plan released today, the EPA is continuing to evaluate capping a portion of the ocean floor with a layer of clean sediment.  The cap would isolate the contaminants, reducing the amount of DDT and PCBs that flow from the deposit into ocean waters.  The EPA will conduct a pilot capping project later this year to help the agency refine cost estimates and determine the most effective cap placement methods.

     The public comment period for the proposal will run from today until April 28.  Comments can be sent to:  U.S. EPA, 75 Hawthorne St., San Francisco, CA 94105, Attn: Fred Schauffler (SFD-7-1), or via e-mail to Schauffler.Frederick@epa.gov .

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