Environment & Science

Superfund cleanup considered on Palos Verdes Peninsula

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Federal regulators want to spend $36 million to cap a massive deposit of toxic chemicals in the ocean off the Palos Verdes Peninsula. KPCC’s Molly Peterson says the plan for the federal Superfund site is controversial.

For 24 years ending in the 1970s, a company called Montrose Chemical dumped the pesticide DDT and toxic PCBs into sewers and eventually the ocean. They settled in the sediment under 200 feet of water. The pollution continues to pose a danger to sea birds, fish, and the people who eat them. Health effects include cancer, neurological problems, and reproductive defects.

To reduce exposure, the Environmental Protection Agency wants to dump more silt and sediment over the most contaminated 320 acres of sea floor. EPA researchers have tested the capping method before – but on a smaller scale.

Federal officials don’t believe it’s foolproof. But dredging would be astronomically more expensive, and might just spread the hazardous materials around. Some Southern California environmentalists want the cap to extend over more territory, which could double the cost of cleanup. The EPA has scheduled hearings to get public input later this month.