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Climate and Environment

Chemical 'Haloes' And 'Fried Egg' Bacteria: A Look At A DDT Dump Site

Boats moored near the short of Catalina Island.
Researchers found bacteria, worms, and sponges among other things at DDT dumping sites off the Catalina coast.
(Beth J. Harpaz
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It’s now well known that for decades, dangerous chemicals like DDT were dumped in barrels into the ocean between Los Angeles and Catalina Island. Scientists believe there could be as many as 25,000 barrels.

While not much is known about the full extent of the pollution the dumping caused, scientists were recently able to send back a firsthand look at what’s down there.

Researchers from UC San Diego's Scripps Institution of Oceanography were already seven miles offshore on another marine mission when they realized they were close to a known dumping ground.

So they took a slight detour to plunge a robotic submersible down to take samples and livestream from the seafloor.

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Viewers from around the world could see sponges, worms, and what looked like chemical “haloes” around the barrels.

Lisa Levin, one of the scientists on the mission, said they also found mats of bacteria that look like fried eggs feeding off the chemicals.

Levin says it could take about a year to wrap up a complete analysis — the findings could shape any future plans to clean up the mess.

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