A plan to cap a vast, long-neglected deposit of the pesticide DDT on the ocean floor off Southern California got its first public airing Tuesday -- nearly four decades after the poison was banned from use.
The estimated $36-million proposal by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency calls for a cover of sand and silt to be placed over the most contaminated part of the estimated 17-square-mile area declared a Superfund site in 1996.
The cap won't clean the site, but it could reduce the health risks for people who eat fish caught off the Palos Verdes coast, said Mark Gold, executive director of the watchdog group Heal the Bay.
"I think it's a huge development," he said. "We have the worst DDT hot spot in the entire U.S."
About 30 people attended the first of several hearings planned this week, as the EPA decides whether to move ahead with its plan or modify it.
The hearing was held at a facility at Cabrillo Beach in San Pedro.
Carmen White, remedial project manager for the EPA's Superfund division, said the agency is finally moving to deal with the contamination after taking time to collect critical data.
"We finally had enough data that we feel we are ready to make a decision," she said.
She also pointed out that there had been some erosion in the middle of the contaminated site, thinning a critical layer of silt already covering the DDT and PCB there.