The U.S. Environmental Protections Agency recently honored the Palos Verdes Shelf Fish Contamination Education Collaborative by awarding the group its National Citizen Excellence in Community Involvement Award. Heal the Bay has been a member of the collaborative since its inception and our Pier Outreach Program has been one of the cornerstones of the effort to educate fish consumers in the Southland about the health risks of consuming DDT- and PCB-contaminated fish. The Pier Outreach Education Program, led by HtB staffers Frankie Orrala and James Alamillo, has educated more than 70,000 anglers at piers and jetties from Santa Monica to Long Beach on contaminated fish issues since 2002.
As a reminder, the PV shelf is home to America’s worst DDT hotspot. More than 110 tons of DDT remain in the sediments today, spread over an area of approximately 7 square miles. The EPA plans to release its long-awaited remediation plan for the PV shelf this summer. EPA, resource management agencies and the Department of Justice sued numerous chemical corporations and local government agencies under Superfund for natural resources damages. The final settlements totaled nearly $140 million. Some of the settlement money funds activities to reduce DDT and PCB exposure to people who eat locally caught fish. The money helped fund the creation of the collaborative to reach out to subsistence and recreational anglers, markets that sell fish that could be contaminated like white croaker, and consumers that frequent those markets.
At a Washington, D.C. ceremony, Barry Breen, the Acting Assistant Administrator of the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, presented the award to the group. Among the collaborative members on hand: Yolanda Lasmarias, Dr. Howard Wang, Hee Joo Yoon, Frankie Orrala, Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, St. Anselm’s Cross Cultural Community Center in Garden Grove, and Boat People SOS – Orange County.
“The EPA commends the Palos Verdes Shelf Fish Contamination Education Collaborative for its commitment and dedication to communities at great risk, especially non-English speaking communities, affected by the Palos Verdes Shelf Superfund site located off the coast of Los Angeles,” said Breen. “The EPA’s Citizen Excellence in Community Involvement Award recognizes individuals and the community groups working collaboratively with the Agency to address environmental issues.”
The outreach team also discussed fish contamination and public education issues with numerous Congressional and White House environmental staffers. The week marked a professional highlight for Orrala, an Ecuadorian marine biologist. This was his first trip to the capital and he’ll remember his warm reception, accepting a prestigious award, meeting with Council of Environmental Quality staff, and hob nobbing with Congressional staff in the halls of Congress for years to come.
More importantly, he and the rest of the collaborative members can take ongoing pride at being at the absolute forefront of efforts to protect public health as a result of the settlement.