LONG BEACH (CBSLA) — Scientists have confirmed the existence of a DDT dump site in the waters off the coast of Southern California, and it’s even bigger than they had anticipated.

(credit: Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego)

A team from UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography used two deep-sea robots to map more than 36,000 acres of seafloor between Catalina Island and the Los Angeles County coast over two weeks in March. Sonar images and computer analysis from 3,000 feet below show more than 100,000 objects on the seafloor.

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Of those objects, 27,000 were classified as barrel-like, and the concern is the barrels contain DDT, an insecticide banned in the 1970s. Barrels and “targets of interest” were found in nearly all areas of the 36,000 acres surveyed and extended beyond the dump site, which is about 12 miles offshore Los Angeles and eight miles from Catalina Island.

(credit: CBS)

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“Unfortunately, the basin offshore Los Angeles has been a dumping ground for industrial waste for several decades, beginning in the 1930s. We found an extensive debris field in the wide area survey,” Eric Terrill, chief scientist of the expedition and director of the Marine Physical Laboratory at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, said in a statement.

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Scientists say they will need to take sample and do chemical analysis to see what was inside the barrels. But the area has already been found to contain high levels of DDT in sediments and the ecosystem.