The Mississippi Levee Board, located in Greenville, has as its
mission the protection of the lives and property of Delta residents.
Since 1865, the Mississippi Levee Board has been diligent and
conscientious in its effort to protect the public from flooding
and keep citizens aware of water issues that might affect them.
keeping with this effort, it is important that the public
know the truth about dredging and the pesticide DDT. Recent
fish advisories issued for the Delta by the Mississippi Department
of Environmental Quality call for a limit on the number of
fish consumed from certain area lakes and streams. The reason
for these advisories pertain to levels of DDT contained in
the fish that the DEQ maintains could be unhealthy if eaten
in large quantities.
following is a basic summary of the issues involved. The Mississippi
Levee Board does not intend to act as a scientific source
on these issues but believe these facts are accurate.
THE TRUTH ABOUT DDT
was inexpensive, and relatively simple to produce, chemical
that was the most effective weapon in combating diseases such
as malaria and typhoid fever the world has ever seen. In fact,
DDT is still used today in many Third World countries to control
the spread of these diseases by mosquitoes.
Why is the DDT Fish Advisory occurring now instead of 30 years
ago when DDT levels were 10 times higher than they are today?
Prior to 2000, the FDA set the action level for DDT at
5 parts per million (ppm) for restricting fish consumption.
In 2000, the EPA adopted guidelines to be used for the evaluation
of impacts for fisheries. In 2001, the MDEQ determined the
need to restrict fish consumption if DDT levels exceed 1ppm.
This action resulted in the need to issue advisories on many
Delta streams, even though the same fish did not require action
Will dredging of streams for flood control projects stir up
DDT and increase the levels of the substance in fish causing
problems to man and the environment?
No. Dredging actually removes contaminates from the stream
and places it in a confined disposal area. The maintenance
that the Mississippi Levee Board supports on the Big Sunflower
River, and other projects, has many benefits to the environment,
especially to the streams, rivers and fish population. Since
fish testing has begun, both before and after the Steele Bayou
Project, for example, DDT concentration in fish tissue has
decreased by more than 85% in this project area.
of fish tissue has shown that DDT levels were reduced significantly
and are well below the 6.0-ppm-the EPA's limit for banning
fish for human consumption-in the streams after dredging.
Most of the fish tested, in fact, were below the 1.0-ppm limit
for no restriction. The same type results are expected by
the Mississippi Levee Board following the work to be done
on the Big Sunflower River Maintenance Project.
does not readily mix with water; it binds tightly to soil
particles. Larvae insects and aquatic worms digest the organic
material in the soil particles and bottom dwelling fish eat
these organisms. Once the DDT is in the fish it builds up
in its fatty tissue. Dredging removes sediment, including
any with DDT content, from the stream bed. Dredging of contaminated
sediments has been successfully performed in many areas around
the country on similar EPA approved projects such as in the
Puget Sound near Seattle and in New York Harbor. The EPA has
also endorsed dredging both the Hudson River in New York and
the Elizabeth River in Virginia to remove contaminated sediments.
The Hudson River Project is very similar to the Big Sunflower
River Project in that the Hudson River sediment is contaminated
with PCBs, a DDT-like substance, and the PCB contamination
has resulted in a fish consumption advisory for the past ten
years. In EPA's judgement, the solution is to remove the contaminated
sediments by dredging. In fact, former EPA director Carol
Browner told reporters that the proposed dredging on the Hudson
River will Òprotect the health of millions of families,
fish and wildlife, rivers and estuaries."
primary method by which the Big Sunflower River is to be dredged
is known as Hydraulic Dredging. It is similar to a giant vacuum
cleaner in that it sucks up the sediment with the attached
DDT from the bottom of the stream and pumps it to confined
disposal sites on high ground. Various disposal site designs
will prevent DDT from reentering the environment. During dredging
of the Big Sunflower River Maintenance Project, monitoring
will insure activities meet the requirements of the water
quality permit as issued by the Mississippi Department of
Environmental Quality. The Mississippi Levee Board supports
measures taken to protect and promote the health of the Delta
people. However, they believe that facts must take precedence
over fear, and that the whole story must be given concerning
the relationship of flood control projects and their impacts
on DDT levels in fish. Moreover, many opponents of Mississippi
Levee Board flood control activities-projects that are designed
to protect Delta citizens and their property from flooding
-are using the issue of DDT as a fear tactic in order to stop
these projects, such as the Big Sunflower River Maintenance