NOAA 2000-095
Contact: Connie Barclay


After a decade of scientific studies and legal wrangling, the U.S Department of Justice, on behalf of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other government agencies, have filed a settlement agreement in federal court requiring that chemical companies provide for environmental clean up and restoration of wildlife contaminated by the world's largest known deposit of DDT. Under the settlement filed today in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, Montrose Chemical and three related companies have agreed to pay $73 million to the United States and the state of California.

Today's settlement brings the total amount recovered through this action to approximately $140 million. The restoration portion of this settlement is the largest payment for natural resource damages since the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

"Under this landmark settlement, those responsible for the DDT contamination will fund projects that rectify the harm done to the public's natural resources. We look forward to the day when the public can safely eat fish caught on the Palos Verdes shelf," said Secretary of Commerce Norman Y. Mineta.

The Montrose Chemical factory in Torrance, Calif., near Los Angeles, was one of the world's largest manufacturers of DDT, a pesticide widely used from the late 1940s until 1972, when it was banned in the United States. The Montrose facility discharged its wastes into the ocean through the local sewer system. More than 110 tons of the DDT remains concentrated in 17 square miles of sea bottom near the sewer outfall. Fish caught in the area are considered by the state of California to be unsafe to eat, and bald eagles reintroduced to nearby Santa Catalina Island lay eggs with shells too weak to incubate and hatch.

Approximately $30 million of today's settlement will be spent to restore natural resources harmed by the DDT. NOAA and other natural resource trustees, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, the State Lands Commission, the California Department of Fish and Game, and the California Department of Parks and Recreation, are responsible for restoring injured resources. Trustees will implement projects to restore fish, bald eagles, peregrine falcons, and other birds in the area. The public will be asked for input on the final restoration program, which will be designed to benefit the types of natural resources that were harmed by the DDT release.

"For decades, the DDT contamination on the Palos Verdes shelf has harmed natural resources and threatened human health. This settlement benefits the public by allowing NOAA and the other resource trustees to focus on restoring natural resources, rather than fighting in the courtroom," said NOAA Administrator D. James Baker.

"This precedent-setting natural resources damage settlement, combined with the EPA's cleanup efforts, will enable the Fish and Wildlife Service and co-trustees to restore bald eagles, peregrine falcons and seabirds to the Channel Islands, where they were common breeding birds, until their populations were decimated by DDT in the 1940s and 1950s," said Mike Spear, manager of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's California-Nevada Operations Office.

Another $43 million from today's settlement will be available to clean up the contamination. The U.S. EPA will continue an ongoing investigation into the feasibility and effectiveness of capping the contaminated sediment by burying it with clean sediment. The state and federal EPA, in collaboration with state fisheries and health agencies, are developing an Institutional Controls Program to advise the public of the continuing risk to human health, as well as a continuing commercial fish ban on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. Under the terms of the settlement, up to $10 million of the cleanup funds could become available for more bird, fish and other restoration projects, depending on the remedy selected by EPA.

The proposed settlement will be published in the Federal Register and any person can submit written comments during a 30-day review period.