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'Santa Monica Bay on the Mend'

July 13, 1985

It is outrageous that Bascom still espouses the view that Santa Monica Bay is healthy and that sewage dumping therein has negligible impacts. Oh, that it were true! But it's not.

Bascom claims that environmental groups "without supporting data" are making unjustified claims, but that environmental scientists share his own views. Does he not consider his own staff at the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project to be environmental scientists? Their studies show, among other things, concentrations of toxic DDT and PCB in flatfish around our sewage discharge sites 10 to 15 times higher "than the highest concentrations ever collected out of Commencement Bay, Wash."

"We think this pretty serious contamination compared to that Superfund site." This quote is from Dr. David Brown, the senior staff scientist at Bascom's agency, who has been supported by 14 of the 15 staff scientists there in his claim that Bascom has deliberately withheld important data, made unsubstantiated conclusions, and even forced the suppression of data related to the quality of the waters in Santa Monica Bay.

Scientists at our public health agencies made the decision to post warnings against consuming fish tainted with toxins. Fish and Wildlife Department scientists found in 1980 that Southern California dolphins had the highest levels of DDT and PCB in their tissues of any wild mammals anywhere in the world!

Dr. James Britt of the county veterinarian's office has related a high number of carcinogen-induced tumors in sea lions to contaminants that occur in Santa Monica Bay waters.

Secondary treatment of sewage in fact removes most of the toxic component of sewage, but to acknowledge that these toxics are having a deleterious effect on Santa Monica Bay waters would justify the expense of upgrading our sewage treatment facilities to incorporate full secondary treatment, a prospect that the dischargers, but more significantly, the City of Los Angeles and the mayor vigorously oppose.

That Santa Monica Bay is "contaminated" to the point of being "polluted" is substantiated by numerous qualified scientists. Dr. Harold W. Puffer of USC authored a federally funded survey on the eating habits of local fishermen and concludes, "We've had severe ocean pollution for a long time" and warns that the toxics present in Santa Monica Bay pose a serious threat to humans.

Permanent employee resident lifeguards in the bay have a cancer risk 35 times that of the general public. Entire populations of marine organisms in the bay have been fundamentally altered. Kelp beds won't return anywhere near sewage outfalls.

I wonder how much evidence it will take to convince Bascom that we have a problem. I'm more concerned, however, that the next director of the agency, since Bascom just resigned, is selected in a way that the public can be assured that he or she is truly qualified and capable of formulating objective and independent conclusions on the basis of the available data.

MARTIN J. BYHOWER

Redondo Beach

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