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Source: Newsday

EPA hearing draws opposition to plan to dump silt into Sound

BY CHAU LAM

Posted: March 2, 2016
Originally Published: March 1, 2016

Adrienne Esposito

Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Enviorment, addresses officials at a public meeting of the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Tuesday, March 1, 2016, at the Port Jefferson Public Library. Photo Credit: Daniel Goodrich

Residents, environmentalists and officials Tuesday condemned a federal dredging plan that calls for the continued dumping of millions of cubic yards of sand and sediment into Long Island Sound over the next three decades.

About two dozen people at a public hearing held by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency urged federal officials to stop putting dredged waste into the open water and use alternative methods to dispose of the muck after it is removed from the bottoms of rivers, lakes and harbors.

The dredged waste — which can contain mercury, lead and pesticides — is bad for marine life, critics said at the hearing, held at the Port Jefferson library.

“We know in some of the areas that have been used as dumping grounds there are higher levels of copper in lobsters and also elevated levels of PCBs in fish,” said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, an advocacy group based in Farmingdale.

Before dredged waste is dumped into Long Island Sound, EPA officials said, it is tested to make sure it isn’t toxic. Waste deemed toxic is taken to landfills.

Speaker after speaker urged EPA officials to keep the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the federal agency in charge of excavating sediment and debris, from carrying out its plan to allow the dumping of an estimated 53 million cubic yards of waste into the Long Island Sound over the next three decades.

The sediment came from land and dredged waste should go back on land, not in the water, said Ray Roel, 60, of East Northport. And since most of the dredging occurs in Connecticut, the waste should be put back on Connecticut land.

“The Long Island Sound is in danger of becoming a Connecticut toilet,” he said.

Habors and ports need to be dredged to allow passenger liners and cargo ships to pass safely. Since the 1980s, dredged spoils have been dumped at four sites in the Sound.

A decade ago, when dumping permits were set to expire, then-Gov. George Pataki blocked a similar plan. New York, Connecticut, the Army Corps and the EPA agreed the Corps should come up with a plan with alternatives to dumping, which includes using dredged material to restore wetlands and cap landfills.

Those options, the Army Corps says, are too expensive.

Critics say the new federal plan, which the Army Corps completed last month, ignores the intent of the 2005 agreement between New York and Connecticut to begin phasing out the need to use Long Island Sound as a waste dump and to begin using other methods of disposal.

George Hoffman of the Setauket Harbor Task Force, an environmental group, said he has offered input at many meetings, but federal officials have not incorporated them into the plan.

“I think we have to throw it out,” said Hoffman, referring to the Army Corps’ plan. “I think we need to start all over again.”

Tuesday’s hearing was intended to give members of the public a chance to express their opinions before EPA officials create formal rules to allow the Army Corps to carry it out. Another hearing is scheduled for Wednesday in Stamford, Connecticut.

The public has until March 25 to submit comments to the EPA, which will consider them, then establish rules for the final adoption of the plan on May 10.