Following a Los Angeles Times article last year about evidence that DDT was pumped into the ocean, scientists surveyed a large underwater area from 10 to 24 March. Significant quantities of the radioactive substance DDT have been found in California’s waters, causing severe pollution.
Marine scientists believe they have discovered up to 25,000 barrels of DDT-contaminated water dumped off the coast of southern California near Catalina Island, where a massive underwater toxic waste site was dating back to WWII.
Until 1972, when the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act, also known as the Ocean Dumping Act, was passed, historical shipping logs indicate that industrial corporations in southern California used the basin as a dumping ground.
The Associated Press reports that images taken during their search show 27,345 “barrel-like” structures containing the insecticide just 3,000 feet below the water’s surface.
If the barrels were proven to contain the toxic chemical, Diana Aga, a chemistry professor at the University at Buffalo who is not associated with the report, said the results were surprising. She commented, “That’s a lot of DDT at the bottom of the ocean.”
According to Aga, if the barrels had not leaked, they could have been transferred to a safer disposal location. Scientists might take samples from the water, sediment, and other marine life to assess the damage if they leaked.
The New York Post reports that around 60 barrels of DDT were discovered on the ocean floor a decade ago. The effect of DDT on marine life has not been adequately addressed by facility management. DDT has been found in high concentrations in the region’s marine mammals, and the chemical has been linked to cancer in sea lions.
“These findings also raise concerns about continued exposure and possible effects on marine mammal health,” said Aluwihare, who was not part of the survey expedition.
DDT was first used in the 1940s as a precaution against malaria, typhus, and other insect-borne diseases or insect control in American crops.
According to Eric Terrill, chief scientist of the expedition and director of the Marine Physical Laboratory at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the area covered was “staggering.”
High-resolution images of barrels resting 900 meters (3,000 feet) below the surface were recorded by underwater drones using sonar technology all along the steep seafloor surveyed. They were also seen outside the dumpsite’s boundaries.
“Everyone who worked with the data and sailed at sea was completely surprised,” he told reporters on Monday.
The use of artificial pesticides is too widespread in the agricultural industry, has many negative consequences for human health, animals, and the environment. After the outcry from the public, in 1972, the newly established Environmental Protection Agency ordered the suspension of DDT. Since then, studies have shown potential harm to the environment and human health, including the risk of developing cancerous tumors at high levels of exposure.