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Contact EPA Pacific Southwest Water Division

Pacific Southwest, Region 9

Serving: Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Pacific Islands, Tribal Nations

Southern California Coastal Study

On February 11, 1998, the U.S. EPA and the California EPA released a report describing the results of the largest environmental survey ever conducted along the southern California coast. Populations of fish and other marine life inhabiting the region's coastal waters were found to be in generally good condition, in spite of widespread low-level contamination on the ocean bottom.

The study was a cooperative effort of 12 government agencies and examined conditions in the coastal waters between Point Conception and the United States-Mexico international border. Based on samples collected in 1994, the survey examined water and sediment quality and the condition of the fish and bottom-living organisms in the area. This study marks the first time that a sufficient number of measurements were taken to allow assessment of conditions within the entire southern California coastal region.

Significant findings of this study included the following:

  • 90% of the sediment on the southern California coastal shelf is contaminated, though generally at low levels;
  • 91% of the area of the southern California coastal shelf supports bottom-dwelling animals typical of natural uncontaminated, bottom sediments;
  • Fish populations and communities are healthy, with almost no signs of disease;
  • DDTs and PCBs in the livers of bottom fish throughout the southern California coastal shelf are at concentrations 95% lower than 20 years earlier;
  • Water quality is good, with 99% of the area meeting the California Ocean Plan objectives for water clarity and oxygen content.

The survey was a cooperative project conducted by the U.S. EPA; Cal/EPA's State Water Resources Control Board and Regional Water Quality Control Boards of Los Angeles, Santa Ana, and San Diego; Southern California's four largest sanitation agencies: City of Los Angeles, County Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County; County Sanitation Districts of Orange County; and the City of San Diego's Metropolitan Wastewater Department; the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Project; and Southern California Coastal Water Research Project (SCCWRP). The project was coordinated by SCCWRP, a public agency focusing on marine environmental research.

Visit the SCCWRP Web site for additional information, including the executive summary of the study.


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