Toxic Waste 'Vanishes' Off California Coast

Compounds mysteriously lower along Palos Verdes Shelf

By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff

Posted Nov 18, 2013 5:15 PM CST | Updated Nov 23, 2013 7:00 PM CST

(Newser) – Scientists are scratching their heads over evidence that toxic waste fouling the California seafloor has begun to disappear—for no real reason, the LA Times reports. A 17-square-mile area off the coast of LA county has long been a horrific dumping ground for the pesticide DDT and industrial compounds known as PCBs. Now, according to recent samples, 90% of them have vanished over the past five years. "The precipitous drop needs to be explained," said an EPA official. "The question we're answering is: Is the DDT still there?"

Scientists have their theories: The chemicals may be drifting into the Pacific or could be lying under clean sediment used in a cleanup effort. The compounds are also becoming less toxic as they shed chlorine. But dubious environmentalists are fuming after they won a long legal battle to have manufacturers and the county government pay $140 million to clean the area; an EPA cleanup has been shelved for now. "My guess is it's a little bit of a statistical anomaly," said an oceanographer. "If we sample it again and it's just as clean, then we have a scientific mystery on our hands."

The sun sets at the Point Vicente Park on the Pacific Ocean in Palos Verdes, Calif. on Monday, June 22, 2009.
The sun sets at the Point Vicente Park on the Pacific Ocean in Palos Verdes, Calif. on Monday, June 22, 2009.   (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
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