Although differing sharply over Kepone's effect on humans, Virginia health and seafood and chemical industry officials agreed today that the federal government could safely triple the amount of the pesticide allowed in fish sold by the state's ailing seafood industry.
Led by Gov. Mills E. Godwin, the officials made their appeals to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency panel that must decided next month whether the permissible contamination levels for fish announced last year are too severe and should be raised.
In an often technical and complex four-hour hearing, spokesmen for the seafood industry and Allied Chemical Corp., which developed the pesticide, attacked the news media for portraying Kepone as a "compound of horror" and scientific studies for allegedly raising false fears about the pesticide.
"According to my limited math, your odds are 10 times greater of being struck by lightning than having a tumor caused by Kepone," said Newport News lawyer Herbert H. Bateman.
A member of the Virginia State Sentate, where last year he sponsored a package of legislation to combat Kepone problems, Bateman appeared today at the hearing on behalf of the industry has sustained more than $23.7 million in damages because of the impact of Kepone pollution on seafood sales.
Joining Bateman's attack on EPA's fish contamination standard were officials of the National Fishers Institute, a Washington-based fishing lobby, and Allied Chemical, which has been fined $13.2 million for secretly dumping Kepone and other chemical wastes into Virginia's James River over a three-year period.
Allied's environmental services manager, Edward Callahan, charged that a "cancer scare" has been raised over Kepone on the basis of a National Cancer Institute stydy, which said Kepone produced cancerous tumors in laboratory-test animals. He said the study has "little scientific or statistical validity."
Allied own studies dispute that finding he said. "We firmly believe" that a 1962 study "does not show that Kepone is a carcinogen," he said.
Callahan also disputed a statement given the EPA panel by Virginia's assistant health commissioner, Dr. Robert S. Jackson. Jackson had said that once absorbed by the body, Kepone remains stored in the fatty tissues of humans and is not eliminated from the body as some other chemicals are.
Callahan said that studies by Allied of its Kepone workers and Medical College of Virginia studies of aling chemical workers who made Kepone at a small Hopewell, Va., plant indicate that Kepone "is eliminated from the body and does not continuously build up" within the body.
Dr. Jackson, the Virginia official responsible for discoverting the Kepone pollution, later told reporters he disagreed with Calahan's claim. He said studies indicate only that Kepone will leave its victim's blood supply and then be stored in the fatty tissues of the blood liver.
Last year, after fish in the James River were found to be contaminated with high amounts of Kepone, the federal government ruled that fish containing only .1 parts per million of Kepone could be sold. That level was based on an assumption that an individual should not consume more than .003 milligrans per day of Kepone.
Viriginia officials recommended today that fish with .3 per million of Kepone be sold, but said that amount would not force the average person to consume more than the maximum amount of Kepone per day recomended under th, federal standard.
Jackson and Virginia Health Commissioner Dr. James E. Kenley said setting any level involved some risk but indicated they would support the proposal increases in Kepone levels only in the context of continued warnings against steady, long-term exposure to Kepone-contaminated fish.