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Richmond Superfund Site Remains Contaminated Despite EPA Cleanup

RICHMOND (KCBS) - Fish at 2 waterways in Richmond's Inner Harbor have shown steadily higher levels of pesticide contamination despite the clean-up of an adjacent Superfund site more than 16 years ago.

For more than 30 years, the United Heckathorn chemical plant manufactured products containing DDT and dieldrin with little thought for how to dispose of the by-products, said Richmond City Councilman Tom Butts.

KCBS' Bob Butler Reports:

"It was really a sloppy operation. They were washing out equipment and just dumping the water in the Bay, or dumping it onto the ground," Butts said.

Levels of DDT and dieldrin initially dropped in the Lauritzen Channel and Parr Canal immediately after the Environmental Protection Agency took action in 1996.

But the first review of the site in 2001 found the benefits of the EPA intervention had not lasted long. Fish started showing elevated levels of DDT and dieldrin even though those chemicals had fallen out of use in the 1970s.

Butts said the toxins turned up in ever higher amounts with each 5-year review until 2011 when DDT concentrations exceeded 1994 levels.

EPA officials speculate the removal of 107,000 tons of contaminated sediment did not capture toxic mud trapped beneath piers, and that difficult to reach soil has slowly re-contaminated the waterways.

Despite plans to draft a new plan for another clean up at the site, but Butts was skeptical that federal officials would be able to act quickly given the heavy cuts Congress imposed on the EPA in 2011.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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