Archive for the ‘PV Shelf’ Category

As FCEC has addressed in a previous post, Sediment 101, the Palos Verdes Shelf is an area of the Pacific continental shelf off the Palos Verdes peninsula that is contaminated with the pesticide DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane) and waste from industrial lubricants called PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls).

Carmen White is the Remedial Project Manager U.S. EPA Region 9 and head of FCEC. Recently Carmen provided an update on remediation of the Palos Verdes Shelf Superfund site by addressing the questions below.

How often is data collected regarding levels or DDTs and PCBs in sediment, water and fish around the Palos Verdes Shelf?

Carmen White: EPA selected a remedy for the Palos Verdes Shelf Superfund site that includes capping the erosive edge of the contaminated sediment deposit, monitoring the natural recovery that is occurring along the Shelf, and continuing the outreach and education program that informs anglers of the risk posed by certain fish species caught around PV Shelf.

The first step toward implementation of the remedy was collection of baseline data that will enable EPA to measure the effectiveness of the cap.  From 2009 to 2011, EPA collected and analyzed sediment cores and water samples across the Shelf. Five years after capping, EPA will again collect sediment and water samples across the Shelf to gauge the post-capping reduction in DDTs and PCBs.

Can you talk a bit about the findings?

Carmen White: Changes in water, sediment and fish are seldom noticeable from year to year. The last in-depth monitoring of the Palos Verdes Shelf—that included PCBs as well as DDTs—was during the Natural Resource Damage Assessment in the 1990s.  The amount of contaminated sediment is significantly less than what was measured then.

What is the current timeframe for the capping construction (interim remedy) of the 300 acre contaminated area?

Carmen White: This Fall EPA completed field studies that will help with cap design.  The studies will help us identify the best material to use for the cap and the exact location and size of the cap.  Cap construction is still a year or two away.

What does it mean for FCEC after remediation is completed?

Carmen White: FCEC is an integral part of the remedy and will continue for the foreseeable future.

We are making progress and FCEC’s work in educating the public about health effects associated with consuming contaminated fish will continue! For more information on the contamination of the Palos Verdes Shelf, how it happened and what’s being done to clean it up, please check out our Project History page.

If you have any additional questions about the remediation project, we’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.

Palos Verdes ShelfLately, we’ve been talking a lot about fish contamination in Southern California, but we realize we haven’t said much about the source of contamination: the Palos Verdes Shelf Superfund site.  The Palos Verdes Shelf Superfund site is an area of the Pacific continental shelf off the Palos Verdes peninsula contaminated with the pesticide DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane) and waste from industrial lubricants called PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls).  Here are a few Q&As about the Superfund site and why it matters to you.

1. What is a Superfund site?

Superfund” refers to a program run by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that cleans up hazardous waste sites.  The program included a fund to pay for the cleanups, and that’s the source of the name “Superfund.” There are over 1,200 Superfund sites nationwide and over 100 in California.

2. How was the Palos Verdes Shelf contaminated?

After World War II, as the Los Angeles population and businesses grew, the world’s largest manufacturer of DDT, the Montrose Chemical Corporation of California, opened in Torrance, California.  During its 35 years of operation, Montrose produced 800,000 tons of DDT.  A lot of DDT waste entered the county sewer system.  An estimated 1,000 tons of DDT ended up being discharged with treated waste water into the ocean; a fraction of this, 50-100 tons, settled onto the Palos Verdes Shelf. A much smaller amount of PCBs also settled on the shelf.

Today, the Palos Verdes Shelf is the largest known DDT contamination site in the world.

3. Why should sediment contamination matter to me?

Although the contaminated sediment is too deep for human contact, chemicals such as DDT and PCBs can enter the food chain through marine animals that feed near the ocean floor.  The contamination travels up the food chain as these animals are eaten by other marine life.  People who catch and regularly consume contaminated seafood risk developing health problems, including cancer, liver disease and effects to the nervous system.

4. What is being done to remedy this problem?

The EPA has designed a three-pronged approach to address the contamination: capping the most contaminated sediment; monitoring recovery in sediment and fish; and market regulation, public education and outreach.

The EPA is working with the following agencies to conduct regular inspections of markets to ensure that contaminated fish caught in the area are not sold to consumers: California Department of Fish and Game, LA County Department of Public Health, Orange County Health Care Agency, and Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services.

As for public education and outreach, the EPA is overseeing the efforts of our program—the Fish Contamination Education Collaborative—to reduce the consumption of local contaminated fish.  FCEC reaches out to fishermen and other residents of the community through events, presentations, online communication and the distribution of educational materials.

Southern California fishing zones5. How can I protect my health against fish contamination?

Our Southern California Fish Consumption Advisory page has guidelines for fish caught from Ventura Harbor to San Mateo Point.  The area is divided into two types of zones: red and yellow.  The Palos Verdes Shelf is a red zone while the zones between Ventura Harbor and Santa Monica Pier, and Seal Beach Pier and San Mateo point are yellow.

There are different consumption guidelines between red and yellow zones.  Make sure to follow the guidelines for your sex and age as well.

You can also watch videos with tips on identifying contaminated fish on our YouTube channel.

More Information

For more information about the Palos Verdes Shelf contamination site, visit FCEC’s Project History page and the EPA’s Palos Verdes Shelf Superfund page.