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Release Date: 2/11/1998
Contact Information: Paula Bruin, U.S. EPA; (415) 744-1587 Frank Losco, SWRCB; (916) 657-1247



     Federal and state environmental protection agencies announced today the release of a report describing the results of the largest environmental survey ever conducted along the southern California coast.  Populations of fish and other marine life inhabiting the region's coastal waters were found to be in generally good condition, in spite of widespread low-level contamination on the ocean bottom.

     This study was a cooperative effort of 12 government agencies and examined conditions in the coastal waters between Point Conception and the United States - Mexico international border.  Based on samples collected in 1994, the survey examined water and sediment quality and the condition of the fish and bottom-living organisms in the area.  This study marks the first time that a sufficient number of measurements were taken to allow assessment of conditions within the entire southern California coastal region.  

Significant findings of this study included the following:

     90% of the sediment on the southern California coastal shelf is contaminated,  though generally at low levels;
     91% of the area of the southern California coastal shelf supports bottom-dwelling animals typical of natural uncontaminated, bottom sediments;
     Fish populations and communities are healthy, with almost no signs of disease;
     DDTs and PCBs in the livers of bottom fish throughout the southern California coastal shelf are at concentrations 95% lower than 20 years earlier;
     Water quality is good, with 99% of the area meeting the California Ocean Plan objectives for water clarity and oxygen content.

     The survey was a cooperative project conducted by the U. S. EPA, Cal/EPA's State Water Resources Control Board and Regional Water Quality Control Boards of Los Angeles, Santa Ana, and San Diego; Southern California's four largest
sanitation agencies: City of Los Angeles, County Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County; County Sanitation Districts of Orange County; and the City of San Diego's Metropolitan Wastewater Department;  the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Project; and Southern California Coastal Water Research Project (SCCWRP).  The project was coordinated by SCCWRP, a public agency focusing on marine environmental research.
    "This study provides a new and valuable baseline from which to measure the health of our coastal resources," said California Secretary for Environmental Protection Peter M. Rooney.  "Governor Wilson's coastal initiative stresses continued monitoring to ensure long-term improvement in coastal water quality.  Equally as significant as the study's findings is the cooperative research process conducted by the many partners in this effort.  We share a common goal of protecting California's marine environment."

     Agencies participating in the survey are interested in collecting the scientific information necessary to effectively and cost-efficiently monitor and protect the southern California marine environment.  SCCWRP is now planning the 1998 Southern California Bight Regional Monitoring Project adding new partners and expanding its research focus to include bays and harbors and shoreline microbiology.

     "This study is an important first step in a multi-step effort to find out what is happening in our coastal waters," said U.S. EPA Regional Administrator Felicia Marcus.  "Historically, studies have focused on specific sites or problems, but not looked at the whole.  In our next stage of monitoring we will move closer to shore to learn more about the health of our beaches.  We will also move our monitoring into ports and harbors to focus more attention on the sediment contamination that continues to be a problem.  By painting the whole picture, we can better answer and help others--communities, regulators, and implementors--to find better answers.  By doing this intelligent, comprehensive work we and others can better target future efforts to protect public health and the environment."

    A copy of the executive summary of the report can be obtained by contacting Paula Bruin, U.S. EPA at (415) 744-1587.