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Staff & Center News

Expert Witnesses from CMG at Environmental Trial in Los Angeles

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One of the largest environmental trials in the Nation was held last month in Los Angeles, and Coastal and Marine Geology scientists Homa Lee, Brian Edwards, Marlene Noble, Monty Hampton, Florence Wong, Michael Hamer, and Rob Kayen were there to submit expert testimony. The U.S. Government and the State of California were seeking damages from Montrose Chemical Corporation and three other companies in legal proceedings that began about 10 years ago. The case centered on a sediment body on the ocean floor off the Palos Verdes Peninsula that contains more than 100 tons of DDT, making it the largest known deposit of DDT in the world. From 1947 until 1971, a Montrose Chemical plant discharged DDT into Los Angeles County sewers that empty into the ocean. The pesticide was banned in the United States in the early 1970s after it was linked to severe reproductive problems in wildlife and cancer in humans. U.S. District Judge Manuel L. Real had already ruled that DDT injured birds and fish in the region and that the DDT on the sea floor came from the Montrose plant. The trial addressed two remaining questions: Is the DDT that caused the injuries the same DDT as that on the sea floor? If so, what are the injuries worth?

Members of CMG's project "Pollution and Waste Disposal, Los Angeles Shelf" have been studying the distribution and fate of contaminants in marine sediment off Los Angeles for a number of years and have periodically been asked for information about the DDT-contaminated sediment. The studies have included seafloor mapping, sediment sampling, sediment analysis, oceanographic monitoring, and sediment-transport modeling.

Attorneys initially estimated that the trial could last longer than a month, but it was adjourned after less than a week when government and industry lawyers reached a settlement during a recess. Montrose Chemical Corporation and two other companies agreed to pay an undisclosed amount to compensate Californians for damages linked to the DDT deposit. A fourth defendant has not settled; Judge Real has yet to rule whether that company is liable. The issue of who must pay for cleaning up the deposit-Montrose or the Federal Superfund-remains before a Federal appeals court.

Related Sound Waves Stories
Pollution and Waste Disposal Workshop
June, 1999

Related Web Sites
Pollution and Waste Disposal, Los Angeles Shelf
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)

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Staff & Center News Expert Witnesses at Environmental Trial

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