Posts Tagged ‘Superfund’

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.

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.

Gowanus CanalWe mentioned in a previous blog post that the Palos Verdes Shelf Superfund site was one of over 1,200 sites under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund program.

In March of 2010, the EPA designated another Superfund site in Brooklyn, New York.  The Gowanus Canal Superfund site covers a 1.8 mile canal stretching from Gowanus Bay to New York Harbor; it’s highly polluted with more than a dozen contaminants.  A remedial investigation completed this past February confirmed the presence of PCBs; metals such as mercury, lead, copper; and PAHs—a group of chemicals formed during the incomplete burning of coal, wood, garbage or other organic substances.

Similar to how Southern Californians are strongly discouraged from eating fish caught off the Palos Verdes Shelf—protecting the public’s health is key to FCEC’s mission—residents near the Gowanus Canal are being told not to eat any of the fish they catch.  In fact, the health risks posed by people eating fish from the polluted waterway were the main reason why the Gowanus Canal was designated a Superfund site.

In addition to consuming fish, swimming in the canal or coming into contact with its water or sediment also presents risks.

Image via listenmissy on Flickr

It’s time for a cleanup

The EPA is now working on a feasibility study that will report on possible options for cleaning up the Gowanus Canal.  An important issue they will need to address is stopping continuous contamination of the site as a result of groundwater runoff and combined sewer outfalls (CSOs) that contain harmful pathogens such as e. coli along with PAHs and heavy metals.

The canal’s old bulkheads and the large amount of debris on the canal’s floor could also pose challenges if the EPA decides to clean up the contaminated sediment by dredging—or excavating—it.

Completion of the feasibility study is set for the end of this year.  Overall, the cleanup effort is expected to finish between 2020 and 2022 and cost $300-$500 million.  The costs will be split amongst parties found responsible for the pollution, including the city government, the Navy and seven companies.

As for public outreach, it’s unclear whether a plan will be implemented to educate residents on the risks of consuming fish caught from the canal; we will be sure to update you if any new information comes out following the feasibility study.

Looking on the bright side

On top of a cleaner, less odorous waterway and a healthier place to live and develop, local preservationists are also hoping that cleanup efforts will turn up historical treasures.

Recent sonar scans of the canal show evidence of sunken sailing vessels, including a ship that might possibly date back to the 18th century.

Want more info on the Gowanus Canal Superfund cleanup project? Visit its Superfund page on the EPA’s website.

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.