DDT found in Ship Creek

Posted: Thursday, May 17, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Trace amounts of the pesticide DDT have been found in Ship Creek in Anchorage, but scientists say it's not enough to cause concern for humans or wildlife.

The pesticide was discovered in samples collected last summer as part of the National Water Quality Assessment Program done by the U. S. Geological Survey.

The results surprised researchers because DDT was banned for most uses nearly 30 years ago. The pesticide was used at Fort Richardson, but use was halted several years before the ban went into effect. In addition, DDT was used at Elmendorf Air Force Base.

Researchers say the persistence of the pesticide could be further evidence that pollutants break down more slowly in the North due to cold temperatures.

''It was surprising to us,'' said Jim Petty, chief of the environmental chemistry branch at the USGS lab in Columbia, Mo., where the sample was analyzed. ''But I'm not going to get on a soapbox and say this is going to kill anyone.''

Petty said the levels of DDT found in Ship Creek were as high as those found in the Missouri River following a 1993 flood that released old contaminants buried in the river bed.

''We don't find much DDT in the water column anymore,'' said Steve Frenzel, a hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey who conducted the sampling in Ship Creek.

''DDT was once sprayed all over the city,'' said Kent Patrick-Riley, an environmental specialist with the state Department of Environmental Conservation. ''It was pretty liberally applied.''

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