Posts Tagged ‘EPA’

Anglers can finally catch a break! At least from all the questions the EPA Consumption Study team has been grilling them on over the past year. The study, which started February 2012, recently ended this January 2013. The survey team surveyed Southern California anglers from Seal Beach to Santa Monica in order to understand their consumption habits of eating certain types of local contaminated fish, such as white croaker, barracuda, topsmelt, barred sand bass and black croaker.

During the yearlong study, the survey team learned quite a bit about the local anglers. For example, they found that the angler community in Southern California is comprised of a socially diverse group of men and women that speak a range of different languages. Despite coming from various backgrounds, their respect for one another and the sport is mightily admirable.

At first the survey team may have looked like they were a fish out of water, but they quickly got the hang of reeling in anglers and building a trusting relationship with them.

“Some anglers may appear to be rough around the edges, but they’re a friendly bunch once you get to know them. Before we knew it, we were sharing stories and cracking jokes with anglers about turd rollers [more commonly known as sand bass].” – Surveyor, Lucia Phan

“During the winter months, only the seasoned anglers were out and it was nice to see that we remembered each other.” – Surveyor, Thuy Nghiem

The study was a mutual learning experience for anglers and the survey team.

“By having conversations with anglers, we became aware of how fishing has changed over the years and why anglers are skeptical of us ‘outsiders.’ Many longtime anglers reported that catching fish now is not as easy as it used to be a decade ago, or even a few years ago. ” – Surveyor, Alben Phung

According to some anglers, the days of catching barracuda and buckets of corbina right off the pier are long gone. Dwindling fish populations, higher regulations, and an influx of outreach have made anglers more conscious of the situation. But all in all, anglers are still out there just to have a good time. As anglers shared their experiences and concerns about the future of fishing, a conclusion can be made: Make Protecting Fishin’ Our Mission!

Watch the EPA Consumption Study survey team in action and subscribe to our YouTube channel!



For the last year, Judy Huang has been the sole Project Manager for EPA’s Palos Verdes Shelf project. In this New Year, we are pleased to welcome Phillip Ramsey to the team as Manager for the Institutional Controls Program. Phillip takes the reins of the 12 year program initially pioneered by EPA’s Fred Schauffler, who recently passed.

Please join us as we take a few moments to get to know Phillip and his plans for the Program:

FCEC: What were you working on before you were tapped to step in on the Palos Verdes Shelf Institutional Controls Program?

Phillip Ramsey: For the past seventeen years, I have been working in the EPA (Region 9) Federal Facilities unit of the Superfund program, assisting the military with the cleanup of numerous California bases. During that time I oversaw the transfer of the Oakland Naval Hospital and Oakland Navy Supply and also managed the Concord, Barstow, Tracy and Sharpe sites, to name some.  Prior to Federal Facilities, I managed a private Superfund site for about five years that is located in Los Angeles County: the Puente Valley Operable Unit of the San Gabriel Valley Superfund Site. I think it’s incredible that I have come full circle to work on this large scale, high profile, marine sediment site, and to be given this opportunity to serve the millions of people (and the thousands of anglers) that call SoCal home.

FCEC: What are you looking forward to about overseeing the Institutional Control Program?

Phillip Ramsey: I am very excited to have been asked to assist Judy Huang on the site and to build on the foundation that Fred Shauffler established for the Program.

I am looking forward to working with FCEC’s partners that are associated with the Educational Outreach, Monitoring, and Enforcement aspects of the Institutional Control Program. To date, I have had the pleasure of attending two meetings on the PV Shelf site and recognize the tremendous wealth of knowledge and experience that collectively exists. It’s my goal to maximize the utilization of this talented pool of professionals to develop a strengthened and robust Institutional Controls Program. Having a background and interest in fisheries and marine biology, and being an angler myself, I am very excited about managing the Education Outreach and Monitoring components and working with the local angling community to strengthen partnerships, improve communication and promote safe fishing practices.

I have a bachelor’s degree in biology (marine biology emphasis) from Fullerton, a graduate degree in natural resource (wastewater utilization option) from Humboldt State and have applicable experiences that have prepared me well for this project. I worked as a freshwater fisheries extensionist oversees in the Peace Corps, which provided me extensive cross cultural experiences, and have freshwater aquaculture experience, serving as a manager in an indoor aquaculture facility in Fresno County.

FCEC: What challenges do you see ahead?

Phillip Ramsey: Like other projects I have undertaken at EPA, I view challenges as opportunities. The Institutional Controls Program for the Palos Verdes Shelf Site represents an opportunity for EPA and its partners to continue ongoing efforts to reinforce and refine existing program components, in order to insure protection of human health, to further promote safe fishing practices and to support fishing and fisheries through positive communication, cooperation and collaboration with the public and commercial and sport fishing representatives that depend on sustainable fisheries.

In mid-September FCEC stakeholders, representatives and partners gathered at the City of Long Beach Family Health and Education Center for the annual Strategic Planning Meeting.

Take a look inside the Strategic Planning Meeting and see the FCEC Team at work!

Judy Huang, EPA Project Manager, and Robert Lindfors of ITSI kicked off the meeting with an update on the monitoring and capping efforts off the PV Shelf. In the presentation they highlighted that traces of chemicals are reducing in the sediment, but not in the fish. There is no explanation for this quite yet, but they are keeping a close eye on it.

Next, a presentation on the Seafood Consumption Study was given. A significant finding has been that compared to the same study conducted in 1994, for every 3 anglers seen in 1994 only 1 angler is still fishing.  Information on Pier Outreach efforts was then presented, and it was noted that over 8,800 anglers were reached during July 2011 – June 2012. It was found that compared to anglers who haven’t received outreach, a greater proportion of those who did receive outreach reported awareness of the local fish contamination.

The last presentation was given by Gabrielle Dorr from the Montrose Settlements Restoration Program, where she discussed their priorities for the restoration projects on fishing and habitat, bald eagles, falcons and seabirds. In addition, she reviewed the goals of the fishing restoration project, which is to provide public information to restore lost fishing services and construct artificial reefs and fishing access improvements.

When talking to anglers, the first question a group like the EPA might ask is, “what are you catching?” While this is a great thing to know from an environmental perspective, when it comes to an angler’s health a more important follow-up question is “What are you eating?” and further, “How are you eating them?” These questions haven’t been asked seriously in nearly 20 years! Since the consumption of certain fish species in the Palos Verdes Shelf area can be a threat to public health, we have begun implementing a Consumption Study program. Judy Huang, EPA Program Manager, explains one of the most important outcomes of the consumption study is “to inform the public of risks associated from eating certain seafood originating from the Palos Verdes Shelf and be able to use this information as a tool to make informed choices about the food they cook and eat.”

Over the course of the study (February 2012 – January 2013), six survey administrators are collecting stories from the diverse Southern California population between Santa Monica and Seal Beach in English, Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog and Vietnamese. For comprehensive data, the surveyors interview anglers one-on-one across all modes of fishing: Piers, jetties, beaches, intertidal zones, private boats, and fishing charters, over the course of a year to gather data during all seasons. Weekdays and weekends, rain or shine and with clipboards and educational props such as fish models in hand, our surveyors ask anglers questions about their fishing experience, knowledge of the DDT contamination off the PV Shelf and whether they have seen posted contamination warnings. If an angler has fish in his bucket, the surveyors ask to examine the fish along with asking a series of questions about the consumption of those particular fish.

The information being gathered is crucial for us to best mitigate the risks to anglers from contaminated catches. The better we understand what seafood consumption habits currently are, and how well tactics have worked over the past 20 years, a more informed decision can be made about what should be adjusted in the future to create a healthier fishing experience for everyone.

What kinds of fish do you eat? And how do you prepare it? We’d love to know!

Americans have come to use the Hawaiian, “Aloha,” as a word to mean both hello and goodbye. It’s a pleasant, if not an entirely accurate, translation. It’s also very fitting for us at this moment as we say Aloha to both Judy Huang and Carmen White, FCEC’s incoming and outgoing Project Managers.

For the last year, Carmen White has provided our group with remarkable leadership in broadening FCEC’s educational and community outreach. We offer her all our gratitude for her efforts.

As we wish Carmen farewell, we are pleased to welcome Judy Huang to her new role. We sat down with FCEC’s new Project Manager to ask her what she sees for the future of the group.

FCEC: Hi Judy, can you share a little of your background with us?

Judy Huang: While I have a lot of work and educational experience with environmental science—I graduated with a degree in chemical engineering from UC Berkley—I also recognize the importance of engaging and activating communities through outreach.

Like Carmen before me, I’m coming from the EPA. I’ve been with their superfund division for 6 years. Prior to that, I had worked for the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board for 13 years where I worked on sites addressing a variety of topics including: waste water treatment plant discharge, stormwater permitting, wetland restoration and superfund site cleanup.

FCEC: What other superfund sites have you worked on and what do they share in common with the Palos Verdes Shelf Superfund Site?

Judy Huang: I was the Formerly Used Defense Site (FUDS) Regional Coordinator, so a lot of them have been things like closed military facilities. Interestingly, the work I did with Fort Ord, to address the cleanup of munitions, earned the distinction of being the first privatized cleanup on a military base.

I’ve done a lot of work on sites in Hawaii that have a lot issues in common with PV Shelf. The Pearl Harbor Naval Air Station and the Del Monte Oahu Plantation both dealt with pesticide cleanups stemming from soil, sediments and groundwater contamination.

While not a superfund site, an offshore munitions study site in Hawaii called Ordinance Reef examined the impact of munitions to human health in the environment. Similar to the PV Shelf consumption study, we had to determine if the seafood was safe to eat. The study looks at how the population prepares their food, and where they caught their fish. The best part of the site was working with the community. Unlike the PV Shelf, everyone in the community could actually see the munitions in the water when they went diving, so everyone was very engaged and aware.

FCEC: What are you looking forward to most about working with the Fish Contamination Education Collaborative on the PV Shelf Project?

Judy Huang: I’m looking forward to learning from the project! First there is the learning opportunity dealing with the technical challenge with the underwater cap. But I’m also looking forward to learning from community outreach. It’s a large component and challenging to implement and enforce. It’s unlike other superfund sites, in that respect.

FCEC: What are your thoughts on the current FCEC outreach efforts and program as a whole?

Judy Huang: PV Shelf is one fast moving project. Based on the Partners meeting we had, I’m impressed with how many people FCEC managed to reach. It’s been impressive to see how excited partners are, and how much pride and ownership they have towards their role in the project.

On Thursday September 15, 2011, FCEC stakeholders, representatives and partners gathered in downtown Long Beach at the NOAA office for the annual Strategic Planning Meeting. The meeting was facilitated by Lori Lewis (Environmental Protection Agency [EPA]), who had been keeping the Strategic Planning Meetings running smoothly for more than seven years now. Since this year marks the Institutional Controls’ 10 Year Anniversary, Carmen White (EPA) kicked off the meeting with an overview of what has been accomplished and where FCEC is headed. Next, Gabrielle Dorr (Montrose Settlements Restoration Program [MSRP]) spoke about MSRP’s past year successes, including bald eagle triplets hatching among the Channel Islands. Marita Santos (Los Angeles County Public Health) took the podium next to update the group on pier signage progress. Presentations on angler outreach followed. A number of presenters then spoke on enforcement and monitoring. Concluding the morning session was a spirited presentation on Fishermen Appreciation Day delivered by Frankie Orrala (Heal the Bay).

Hard hat awards were presented to a handful of organizations to recognize their longstanding contributions to FCEC efforts (and other efforts related to mitigating the effects of the PV Shelf which came before FCEC, or as Gwangyu Wang said “…long before FCEC.”)  Award recipients included Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG), Heal the Bay, Los Angeles County Public Health, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) and Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission.

After refueling with lunch, meeting attendees broke out into four smaller groups. Each group engaged in topic discussions related to three project components: angler outreach, fish tissue sampling and market inspections. Groups brainstormed ideas about how their organizations could help with each of these efforts and how each of these efforts could contribute to their own work. Groups reconvened at the end of each topic discussion to share ideas and identify common themes. The meeting concluded with a discussion of next steps (not to mention an erroneous fire alarm.) Congratulations to everyone involved on 10 years of ICs efforts!

Carmen WhiteFCEC has made great progress in reaching out to communities about fish contamination during these last few months.  I’m excited to share our progress with all of you.  We’ve posted new signs at local fishing spots, created a new map on the FCEC website and launched a new contest!

The posting of our new fish advisory signs in fishing areas across Los Angeles, Long Beach and Seal Beach is an amazing accomplishment.  I have seen this project develop from an idea to execution and the level of collaboration has been integral to its success.  These signs will be permanent reminders to anglers not to consume the five fish, caught from Santa Monica Pier to Seal Beach Pier, that are highly contaminated.

I also invite you to check out the new interactive map on our website; it is a really easy way of determining if the fish advisory applies to a fishing area.  The map marks local environmental/community organizations and bait and tackle shops, too!

If you are looking to share fish contamination information with your community, the article about FCEC’s Booth in a Box will interest you.  Free educational materials in multiple languages are yours—all you need to do is distribute them at your community event.

Did you know that there is a history of mislabeling in the seafood industry?  Read this eye-opening article on seafood mislabeling to make sure you’re eating the fish you intended to eat.

Finally, there is a new contest currently running on our blog.  You could win a free fishing trip for two if you can identify the fish on our slide show!  Not a bad way to enjoy summer!

I hope this e-Newsletter issue helps you learn more about the local fish contamination.  Help us to spread this information by sharing these stories with others.

If you have any questions, the FCEC team is always happy to help.  Leave a comment in this post or email



Carmen White


I’m happy to introduce the 10th issue of our e-newsletter!

This issue has a lot of great stories by our FCEC team. I’m also pleased to report that the issue comes on the heels of a very successful Partners’ Meeting held in late January where nearly 30 partners gathered at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health offices (big thank you to Marita) to discuss the program’s achievements and get updates from each other on spreading the word on fish contamination in their respective communities.

This issue is packed with this very topic – fish contamination – including what fish to avoid and what fish is safe to eat when prepared properly and consumed in moderation.

We also talk about the root causes of our fish advisories, dating back to the 1940s and 1980s. We discuss how manufacturing plants in Los Angeles released chemicals called DDT and PCBs into the sewer system and led to the fish advisories you see today.

For instance, did you know that topsmelt caught in the Palos Verdes Shelf in Southern California is highly contaminated and should not be consumed? If you’d like to know how to identify this contaminated fish, check out our video on how to do this.

While there are many locally-caught fish species such as white croaker and topsmelt mentioned above that should not be consumed, there are plenty of fish that are ok to eat. However, these fish should still be consumed about once or twice a week and prepared as fillets without the skins. Here is a webpage that lists all the fish that are safe to eat with those restrictions.

Finally, if you’d like to do good and feel good by eating seafood that’s sustainable, Whole Foods now has a handy labeling system that allows you to see the various sustainability levels of different seafood. After all, a smart consumer is a well-informed consumer.

I hope you’ll enjoy our articles and as always, we’d love to hear what you think so let us know!



Carmen White


2010 was a remarkable year for the Fish Consumption Education Collaborative, known as FCEC. We saw a large increase in our outreach efforts. We engaged our community at local piers, clubs and community organizations more than in any previous year. We attended numerous events where we spoke directly to community members about fish contamination in the area.

We also saw a few significant changes these past twelve months. Sharon Lin, who led the FCEC program for several years, moved on to other endeavors within the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. FCEC benefited from her vision and leadership. Sharon was instrumental in creating the foundation for the work we will continue to expand upon.

In case you were wondering, I’m her replacement. I joined the EPA in 1997, working in the Community Involvement Office. It is my hope that my experience there and my various other roles will aid FCEC in its educational and community outreach. Additionally, I’m familiar with the issues around the Palos Verdes Shelf since I’ve been working on the Shelf’s cleanup plans since 2004.

But enough about me. Let’s talk about you! We recently asked you what you thought of our newsletters and blog posts. Thanks to all of you who took the time to share your thoughts.

Here are a few things we learned from the survey. Almost half of the respondents visit our blog monthly. Our newsletter readers also prefer informative videos and posts and like reading about fish consumption information. As a result, you can expect more of what you like! So why not start with our current newsletter that serves up exactly that?

First, check out an interview with Dave Anderson who works with our partner, Seafood For the Future – who talks about the relationship between what we eat and ocean sustainability. We also have a video on what chef and author Barton Seaver dubs “Restorative Seafood” and how to eat with sustainability in mind.

Lastly, we have a short video clip with fish enthusiasts from the Cerritos Rod & Gun Club, where they discuss what they learned about fish contamination at one of their club meetings.

Thanks for reading, and happy holidays!


Carmen White

As some of you know, I will be going on a six month detail in the EPA Pacific Southwest Region (Region 9) environmental justice office. I am excited about the new career opportunity. My passion in environmental justice and social justice has grown in the past 8 years during my work on the Palos Verdes Shelf (PV Shelf) superfund project.  Naturally, my passion has led me to this new opportunity.  

In 2002, when I first became the project manager for the PV Shelf project, we were grappling with a real risk exposure and public health problem facing our communities.  After my first meeting with the project stakeholders, James Alamillo with Heal the Bay approached me and told me this is an environmental justice (EJ) project. He asked me “what is this administration’s plan to protect the EJ community?”  I didn’t have an answer for him.  

When I got back to my office, I started reading up on environmental justice and took a fundamentals of EJ training offered at EPA.  As an immigrant who came to this country at the age of 18 and someone who is always interested in the history of the Civil Rights movement in the U.S., I got it immediately.   The EJ communities are not faceless people to me; instead, they are people like me.  This enlightenment put a new resolution in my commitment to my work.  

Many of you know this project has been so innovative in linking scientific risk reduction measures with community outreach work.  This project is built on the solid foundation of “meaningful involvement” and “equal and fair treatment” of all people. We were the first EPA Superfund project that introduced the strategic planning tool with a neutral facilitator and have been consistently using this tool to guide our program implementation over the past six years.  We were the first and only Superfund project that has brought environmental justice training to the community, local and state agency partners.   We’ve made decisions together. We worked to get our local and state governmental agencies involved in this mission of protecting people who are the most vulnerable, most in need of our help and are often voiceless.  This project is not just a Superfund site or a job to me, I found my calling in this work.

James Alamillo and I talked again recently.  He asked me how I felt about leaving this project, “Sharon’s baby” in his words.  I think of this change as a short break.  I am taking the knowledge and experience of what I have learned from all of you and applying it to a broader program.  I encourage you to continue sharing with your constituencies this incredible project that we have built collectively. I will keep in touch and update you on my new job.  See you in 2011.