Thursday, October 8, 2009

Montrose Chemical...Boo! Hiss!

Since Halloween is coming, let's blog about scary things.

Wikipedia now has a Montrose Chemical entry that seems pretty thorough. Montrose Chemical, based at 20201 S. Normandie (between Del Amo Blvd and Francisco, I believe) made DDT in the 1950s and 1960s and 1970s, right up to 1983.

DDT stands for Dichloro-Diphenyl-Trichloroethane. It's a pesticide. It's also the substance that, when ingested by bald eagles, caused the eagle eggs to crack before the chicks are ready to be born. Nasty stuff; causes cancer. Its production peaked just about the time that Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring was published, which alerted people to the danger of DDT.

A few months ago I blogged on fishing off the Southern California coast in 1907--the Los Angeles Times actually reported weekly on what was being caught by local anglers. Fish like croakers and corbinas, barracuda, mackerel, even halibut and yellowtail.

The fist are still around--but don't catch them, and don't eat them, unless you want to get very, very sick. They are contaminated with the chemicals dumped into the ocean. This posting from LAist gives details, and you can also check the California State Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment website, here. Even better is a website about the area and the toxins, made for consumers and the public, the FCEC--Fish Contamination Education Collaborative, here.

From 1947 through 1971, Montrose Chemical discharged 110 tons of DDT through sewers and channels, into the ocean and onto the Palos Verdes Shelf. According to an EPA page, the PV Shelf sits offshore from Point Fermin (San Pedro) up to Palos Verdes Point. The DDT becomes part of the underwater food chain--the circle of life, if you will. Seventeen square miles of ocean have been declared a Superfund Site, and in 2000, Montrose and other companies were ordered to pay $73 million to help restore the coastline.

Montrose also dumped about 10 tons of PCBs, or Polychlorinated biphenyls, further endangering fowl, fish, and our own humble selves.

In June, the Environmental Protection Agency came up with a plan to spend millions of dollars to address the problem (that's a terrible oversimplification. The list of decisions and actions is a mile long, as you might expect after forty years of litigation.). The site is back in the news because of a new plan, capping the worst concentration of DDT with sand and silt, 18 inches thick. Starting in 2011, the cap will be spread over 9 square miles of the PV Shelf. Read the Daily Breeze story for more details.

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