History of DDT Ocean Dumping Off L.A. Coast Even Worse Than Expected, EPA Finds

A research expedition led by UC Santa Barbara came across old discarded barrels sitting 3,000 feet underwater near Santa Catalina Island.
(David Valentine / ROV Jason)

After an exhaustive historical investigation into the barrels of DDT waste reportedly dumped decades ago near Catalina Island, federal regulators concluded that the toxic pollution in the deep ocean could be far worse — and far more sweeping — than what scientists anticipated.

In internal memos made public recently, officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency determined that acid waste from the nation’s largest manufacturer of DDT — a pesticide so powerful it poisoned birds and fish — had not been contained in hundreds of thousands of sealed barrels.

Most of the waste, according to newly unearthed information, had been poured directly into the ocean from massive tank barges.

Although shipping records noted the number of discarded barrels, regulators say the word “barrel” appeared to refer to a unit of volume, rather than a physical barrel. Further review of old records revealed that other chemicals — as well as millions of tons of oil drilling waste — had also been dumped decades ago in more than a dozen areas off the Southern California coast. 08-04-22

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