Letters to the Editor: Why fund space exploration when we have Super Fund sites off our coast?

A discarded barrel of DDT sits 3,000 feet deep on the ocean floor near Santa Catalina Island.
A discarded barrel of DDT sits 3,000 feet deep on the ocean floor near Santa Catalina Island.
(David Valentine / ROV Jason)

To the editor: Compliments to The Times for publishing reporter Rosanna Xia’s splendid article on DDT dumping and contamination in the channel between Los Angeles and Santa Catalina Island.

Unfortunately, that dire situation will never be resolved. These issues couldn’t be resolved even in the much shallower Palos Verdes Shelf Superfund Site.

A major lesson from the article is how little we know about marine ecosystems. As a nation, we spend many billions exploring heavenly bodies. Truthfully, we probably know proportionately more about the biology on Mars than we know about the complex ecosystems living in sediments half a mile offshore along our coast.


In 2008, U.S. Geological Survey research indirectly suggested that major megafaunal assemblages that I quantified in 1974 living in nearshore sediments, including geoduck clams, have disappeared. However, funding to confirm these findings appears unavailable.

Research priorities in this nation are haywire. We should be investigating the canaries on this planet first, then heavenly bodies.

Dennis Lees, Encinitas

The writer is a marine biologist.


To the editor: Where has all the money gone in the Superfund account to clean up the DDT off the Palos Verdes Peninsula?

Instead of spending the money on research to find a substance that makes DDT inert and applying it to the area, our government has funded an inept bureaucracy that has done nothing but put out warnings not to eat the fish.


We already knew that our bay was going to be polluted for decades to come, and now we find an even greater amount of DDT off Catalina. Thanks to the L.A. Times for making these DDT dump sites known and pointing out the lack of action at the first Superfund site.

Betsy Nicassio, Hermosa Beach


To the editor: I was a toddler during World War II and sprayed with DDT at the beach, similar to the photo you included with this article. I don’t remember that spraying day, but my parents did.

I also learned that advertising at the time by DDT makers claimed, “DDT is good for you and me.” That claim is apparently what some scientists believed at the time.

So, spraying people on the beach with an insecticide was scientifically acceptable and good for the people. Why was the government doing that beach spraying? Why was that barrel dumping occurring?

Citizens must be more active in demanding that such things are not allowed again, and our government must work toward removing those barrels from the ocean floor. What a mess you reported.

Douglas M. Chapman, Santa Ana