Contamination is Forever

In the field of water quality regulation, sewage treatment plant and industrial dischargers often have strict numeric limits on the amount of pollutants they can discharge.  In some cases, for highly toxic pollutants like organochlorines and mercury, the limits can be at the parts per billion or even per trillion level.

As a result of the Federal Clean Water Act and the California Porter Cologne Act requirements, most individual sources of pollutants have decreased their toxics discharge by an order of magnitude or more over the last 30 years.

On the opposite side of the regulatory continuum are contaminated sediments.

Continue reading

Fish Justice

Heal the Bay's Angler Outreach team. The program has educated over 80,000 anglers over the past 8 years on the health risks of eating contaminated fish. Image:Heal the Bay

Usually, we hear about the need for Environmental Justice because of the health tragedies that were allowed to get out of control. Asthma rates near the ports. Cancer Alley along the lower Mississippi. Pesticide-induced Cancer clusters near Macfarland and now, the cleft palate cluster near Kettleman Hills’ Hazardous Waste Facility. Rarely does the public hear about an Environmental Justice win, without the associated, demonstrated environmental health tragedy.

Continue reading

Something’s Fishy

California halibut is now on reduced consumption list because of contaminant levels

California halibut is now on reduced consumption list because of contaminant levels

The state Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) finally released its health advisory and safe eating guidelines for fish caught from coastal areas from Ventura Harbor south to the Dana Point area. The results do not bode well for those that regularly eat locally caught coastal fish.

The recommendations are based on a NOAA/EPA fish contamination study of DDT, PCB and mercury contaminant levels in fish collected over five years ago. The agency used some supplementary fish contamination data from Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts and Los Angeles monitoring programs as well. 

DDT and PCB manufacturing was banned over 30 years ago, but there are still over 100 tons of DDT and PCBs contaminating the sediments off of the Palos Verdes coast.

Despite the fact that OEHHA unconscionably chose to set the cancer risk for fish consumption at 1 in 10,000 (1 in 100,000 to 1 in a million is the norm and those ranges are the risk levels used by EPA), the health recommendations are pretty far reaching. Continue reading

Something Fishy

Mercury WarningThe FDA released a report urging the Feds to give contaminated fish a break. After all, the cardiac benefits of eating fish versus a Big Mac are well documented.

As usual, the FDA misses the point in its recommendations.

As a reminder, the FDA are the same guys that recommended an “unsafe” DDT level in fish of 5 parts per million, well above the level for hazardous waste and over 50 times higher than EPA’s often cited recommended level. Why? The FDA balances economic impacts and public health on the backs of consumers.

Continue reading