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Water-quality plan for L.A., Long Beach ports approved

February 8, 2012 |  9:23 am

Toxic fish warning in Long Beach

State water regulators have approved a plan to restore water quality at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach by putting limits on 70 pollutants that contaminate water and sediment and make fish toxic to eat.

The plan passed Tuesday by the State Water board will cap the amount of toxic metals and chemicals such as DDT and PCBs allowed in the sediment, water and fish in the nation's largest shipping complex.

"The strategy will bring about sediments that support healthy sediment-dwelling organisms and fish that are safe to eat," Los Angeles Water Board Chair Maria Mehranian said in a statement.

The plan aims to reduce pollution in the ports and the Dominguez Channel over the next 20 years by cleaning up toxic "hot spots" where pollutants have accumulated in the harbor bottom. It will also require that neighboring cities ensure they are not adding to the contamination by discharging dirty storm water into the port complex.

The buildup of metals, pesticides and other toxic chemicals in fish is such a problem in Southern California waters that health officials in 2009 expanded the number of fish on the "do not eat" list from one to five species.

From Santa Monica to Seal Beach, white croaker, barracuda, topsmelt, black croaker and barred sand bass are considered so contaminated with the banned pesticide DDT, toxic chemicals known as PCBs and poisonous mercury they are unsafe for human consumption.

The state's water quality plan will require regular monitoring and testing for pollutants in the harbor complex and in the tissue of sport fish.

To take effect, the plan must be given final approval by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.


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Photo: Heal the Bay Angler Outreach Coordinator Frankie Orrala, left, talks to Ebobio Toscano about tainted fish last year at Pier J, a popular fishing spot in Long Beach. Credit: Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles Times