Ocean Dumping of Containerized DDT Waste Was a Sloppy Process. Academic Article uri icon


  • Industrial-scale dumping of organic waste to the deep ocean was once common practice, leaving a legacy of chemical pollution for which a paucity of information exists. Using a nested approach with autonomous and remotely operated underwater vehicles, a dumpsite offshore California was surveyed and sampled. Discarded waste containers littered the site and structured the suboxic benthic environment. Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) was reportedly dumped in the area, and sediment analysis revealed substantial variability in concentrations of p, p-DDT and its analogs, with a peak concentration of 257 ?g g-1, ?40 times greater than the highest level of surface sediment contamination at the nearby DDT Superfund site. The occurrence of a conspicuous hydrocarbon mixture suggests that multiple petroleum distillates, potentially used in DDT manufacture, contributed to the waste stream. Application of a two end-member mixing model with DDTs and polychlorinated biphenyls enabled source differentiation between shelf discharge versus containerized waste. Ocean dumping was found to be the major source of DDT to more than 3000 km2 of the region's deep seafloor. These results reveal that ocean dumping of containerized DDT waste was inherently sloppy, with the contents readily breaching containment and leading to regional scale contamination of the deep benthos.

publication date

  • March 19, 2019