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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR: DDT STILL PRESENT IN STREAMS AND FISH IN YAKIMA RIVER BASIN 20 YEARS AFTER THE BAN

 RESTON, Va., July 6 /PRNewswire/ -- Two decades have passed since the pesticide DDT was banned, but it is still widely dispersed in agricultural soils, stream water, sediment and bottomfish of the Yakima River basin in Washington state, according to a report by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Department of the Interior.
 The report, a product of the USGS National Water Quality Assessment that focuses on the surface-water resources of the 6,155-square mile Yakima River basin, was released today in Yakima, Wash., at a news briefing with the Washington Department of Health and other federal, tribal, state and local agencies.
 Concentrations of DDT in fish in the lower Yakima River basin are among the largest measured in the nation and commonly exceed guidelines for the protection of birds and other fish predators recommended by the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering.
 The highest concentrations in water and fish occur in the lower 110 river miles in the basin, roughly between Yakima and Benton City.
 The Washington State Department of Health evaluated the bottomfish data to determine whether the levels of DDT could be harmful to persons eating the fish. Dr. Mimi Fields, state health officer, said, "The level of exposure to DDT depends upon the amount of Yakima River bottomfish a person consumes. People who occasionally eat the fish would have minimal exposure. But for those who regularly eat it, the levels of DDT may pose a threat."
 Dr. Fields said that the Department of Health is planning a study of bottomfish consumption patterns in the Yakima River area. "In the meantime, anyone concerned about eating bottomfish from the Yakima River can pick up a pamphlet with recommendations in English and Spanish at area health departments," she said.
 DDT concentrations in salmon and other anadromous fish -- that live in both fresh- and saltwater -- were not determined in this study because, when the sampling and analysis were conducted, the results could not be directly attributed to the quality of freshwater in the Yakima River.
 According to the USGS report, DDT concentrations in water in the lower reaches of the Yakima River basin commonly exceeded the chronic- toxicity criterion of one part DDT per trillion parts of water for the protection of freshwater aquatic life, established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and adopted as a water-quality standard by the Washington Department of Ecology. DDT concentrations in the forested upstream reaches of the basin are below the chronic- toxicity criterion and are considered to be safe for aquatic life.
 "A major source of DDT in the streams and fish is from agricultural soils contaminated more than 20 years ago and now being eroded during irrigation season and during periods of heavy rainfall," said Joseph Rinella, a USGS hydrologist in Portland, Ore., and senior author of the report. "We are seeing these elevated concentrations in the irrigation return flows in these areas."
 State, federal, tribal and local programs are underway to reduce erosion in the contaminated soils and thereby reduce the amount of DDT that enters streams. Erosion-control programs have been implemented by farmers with technical and cost assistance from local conservation districts, the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service and the Soil Conservation Service.
 "An important aspect to keep in mind when looking at persistent elevated concentrations of DDT is that these pesticides are still cycling through the environment," Rinella said. "The pesticide is extremely persistent and is still being detected in major components of the natural system including soils, water, sediment and fish."
 Key information on the history of irrigation in the basin was provided by the Bureau of Reclamation, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provided information on biological measurements.
 The USGS report is the second in a series of general interest publications that the USGS plans to release on findings from the National Water Quality Assessment (NAWQA) program. NAWQA is the first nationwide assessment of the quality of the nation's water resources and will eventually cover 60 to 70 percent of the nation's water resources. The program began in 1986 with seven pilot studies; 20 projects were started in 1991, 20 more are set to begin in fiscal 1994 and the final 20 are proposed to begin in 1997.
 The goal of the NAWQA program is to develop an improved understanding of the status and trends in the quality of the nation's ground-water and surface-water resources. In this program, sources of natural and human-caused impacts on water quality are being identified. Information from NAWQA studies is designed to address specific water- quality concerns that will be useful to policy makers and managers at all levels of government.
 "The interagency communication that was fostered during the Yakima River pilot project is continuing in the full-scale NAWQA program. The USGS is committed to working closely with federal, tribal, state and local agencies to make the results of NAWQA studies relevant to water- quality issues of regional and national concern," said P. Patrick Leahy, hydrologist and chief of the national program.
 The 24-page USGS report, "Persistence of the DDT Pesticide in the Yakima River Basin, Washington," by Joseph F. Rinella, Pixie A. Hamilton and Stuart W. McKenzie, published as USGS Circular 1090, may be obtained at no charge from the USGS Branch of Distribution, Box 25286, Denver Federal Center, Denver, CO 80225, telephone 303-236-7977.
 The Washington State Department of Health brochure may be obtained from area health departments. In Yakima, call 800-535-5016.
 As the nation's largest water information agency, the USGS monitors the quantity and quality of the nation's surface- and ground-water resources at more than 45,000 sites across the nation.
 -0- 7/6/93
 /NOTE TO EDITORS: Copies of the report are available to the news media by contacting the USGS Public Affairs Office, 119 National Center, Reston, VA 22092, telephone 703-648-4460. The Health Department brochure is available from the Yakima, Wash., Health District office, 800-535-5016/
 /CONTACT: Rebecca Phipps of the U.S. Geological Survey, Department of the Interior, 703-648-4460/


CO: U.S. Department of the Interior ST: Washington IN: SU:

SB-JH -- SE006 -- 8847 07/06/93 19:01 EDT
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