SAN DIEGO (AP) — Marine scientists say they have found what they believe to be more than 25,000 barrels that possibly contain DDT dumped off the Southern California coast near Catalina Island.
The sightings were made by researchers at the University of California San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography who mapped more than 56 square miles of seafloor between Santa Catalina Island and the Los Angeles coast. The region was previously found to contain high levels of the toxic chemical in sediments and in the ecosystem.
Scientists conducted the survey following a Los Angeles Times report last year that a University of California Santa Barbara professor had found evidence that barrels of DDT were dumped into the ocean.
During the expedition, which ran from March 10 to March 24, the institution says its crew mapped more than 36,000 acres of seafloor, where it identified more than 27,000 targets with high confidence to be classified as barrels and over 100,000 total debris items.
The university says barrels and targets of interest were found in nearly all areas of the 36,000 acres surveyed, which is about 12 miles offshore from L.A.
Eric Terrill, chief scientist of the expedition, said the basin had been a dumping ground for industrial waste for several decades, beginning in the 1930s.
“Now that we’ve mapped this area at very high resolution, we are hopeful the data will inform the development of strategies to address potential impacts from the dumping,” he said in a press release.
Terrill says there are several distinct track-line patterns in the surveyed area, suggesting that the dumping was repeatedly done from an underway platform such as a moving ship or barge.
Terrill’s team is now working to finalize the release of the sonar data, which they hope will serve as a catalyst for an action plan and additional research endeavors to understand environmental impacts.