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Santa Catalina Island is using “underwater Roombas” to clean up toxic waste

Residents and vacationers who frequent Santa Catalina Island were shocked to learn from a recent Los Angeles Times investigation that their shores were contaminated with poison from the nation’s largest DDT manufacturer who had dumped barrels of the chemical along the coast for almost 40 years. DDT can be particularly hazardous to marine ecosystems, so following a lawsuit, Santa Catalina is now looking for the best way to clean up this hazard. They seem to have found a starting place with the help of “underwater Roombas.”

A research team from Scripps Institution of Oceanography set off this week to deploy the underwater tools which are small devices, equipped with sonar, which crawl along the ocean floor and collect samples. 

Although the devices aren’t actually vacuuming up anything, they are providing valuable data about the extent and location of the chemical pollution. After two weeks of investigative exploration, the researchers should have enough information to understand the scope of the crisis and come up with an adequate clean-up plan.

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