In the first large-scale analysis of polluted sediment, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has named 96 areas on the bottom of the nation's oceans and rivers as severe threats to marine life or people.
Included are 10 in California that encompass nearly the entire coastlines of Los Angeles and Orange counties: Santa Monica Bay, the Los Angeles River, the Channel Islands, Newport Bay, ocean waters off Seal Beach and Huntington Beach, the coast off south Orange County especially Aliso and San Juan creeks, San Diego Bay, San Francisco Bay and Coyote Creek in San Jose.
Four offshore sites in California are among those singled out as high risks to human health:
* San Pedro and Palos Verdes, where fish contain DDT and PCBs. The main source is Los Angeles County's sewage outfall, which releases half a billion gallons of treated waste into the ocean daily.
* Huntington Beach, off Huntington State Beach, where fish contain PCBs and arsenic, most likely from Orange County's sewage outfall and urban runoff from the Santa Ana River.
* San Diego off Imperial Beach, where fish are tainted with PCBs, lead and other compounds. Likely sources are the city's sewage outfall and wastes from Mexico via the Tijuana River.
* Catalina Island, where mussels contain arsenic. The source is unknown.
Ordered by Congress in 1992 and due to be completed this summer, the EPA's National Sediment Quality Survey examines pollution levels from 11% of the nation's waterways gathered during the 1980s and early '90s.
"What we've now learned is that this isn't just an issue in the major ports," said Jim Keating, the EPA scientist who leads the study.