Families Near DDT Site Unhappy With EPA


The 33 families that were moved from a Torrance area neighborhood after last spring’s discovery of DDT contamination can continue living in temporary quarters through June while the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency decides on a cleanup plan, agency officials said.

But that plan, announced at a meeting last week, is being lambasted by some families who believe the federal government should instead move them permanently from West 204th Street, a promise that the EPA has declined to make.

“They’re giving us a little pacifier. That’s all they’re doing--’OK, we’ll extend relocation another six months,’ ” said Dunia Ponce, 34, a registered nurse who is among those who have been living since May in hotel rooms and rented homes at federal expense. Residents originally were told they were being relocated only until January, 1995.


Ponce owns a home directly across the street from the two yards where chunks of DDT were excavated last spring. The discovery sparked concern because the yards are less than half a mile from a former DDT manufacturing plant, Montrose Chemical Corp., now a federal Superfund site. Directly to the north is a former rubber factory that is a proposed Superfund site.

Residents of 204th Street have complained of nausea, headaches, rashes and other ailments that they fear are being caused by chemicals from the two sites.

But after conducting months of tests, federal officials have concluded that the results do not merit a costly permanent relocation in which the government would buy up homes in the unincorporated area just east of Torrance.

That testing did find traces of DDT and another pesticide in the household dust inside 25 of the 28 homes along 204th Street that were included in the survey.

Now, angry and distrustful residents worry that they could have been exposed to the dust for years.

“The average American home doesn’t have DDT in the dust,” Ponce said.

EPA section chief John Blevins, however, said that further research is needed to determine if the levels of DDT are high enough to pose a health risk.


The agency is studying how to clean up the six properties along 204th Street that are believed to contain DDT-contaminated fill, including the two where chunks of the pesticide were found last spring.

At the public meeting Dec. 1, officials described options that included fencing the site at a cost of $1 million, removing and temporarily storing the contaminated fill ($5 million to $10 million) and disposing of the material ($10 million to $20 million).

The EPA would like to have cleanup completed by June, Blevins said Wednesday.