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Source: Long Island Exchange

Rep. Zeldin Calls on EPA to Keep Commitment to Permanently Close Eastern Long Island Sound Disposal Sites

Also to Expedite the Closing of Western and Central Sites

Posted: August 1, 2016
Originally Published: July 29, 2016

(Long Island, NY) On Friday, July 29, 2016, Congressman Lee Zeldin (R, NY-1), member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and Long Island Sound Caucus, hosted a press conference overlooking the Long Island Sound at Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai. At the press conference, Congressman Zeldin called on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to keep their commitment to permanently close the Eastern Long Island Sound disposal sites. The Congressman also called on the EPA to expedite the process to phase out the Western and Central Long Island Sound disposal sites. Congressman Zeldin was joined by local elected officials and environmental groups.

On April 27, 2016, the EPA issued a proposed rule, the “Ocean Disposal; Designation of a Dredged Material Disposal Site in Eastern Region of Long Island Sound; Connecticut (81 FR 24748),” which would continue open water dumping of dredge waste in the Eastern Long Island Sound for up to 30 years, despite the agency previously committing to close both of the Eastern Long Sound disposal sites (ELDS), Cornfield Shoals and New London, by December 23, 2016. Last month, on June 30, 2016, Congressman Zeldin sent a letter to the Administrator of the EPA opposing this proposed rule. Additionally, on July 7, 2016, the EPA announced a final rule that continues open water dumpling at the Central and Western Long Island Sound dump sites, while phasing these sites out over the next 30 years.

Today, Congressman Zeldin reinforced that it is imperative for the EPA keep its previous commitment to the people of the East End and close these sites. When the Eastern Long Island Sound disposal sites were created by the EPA in 2012, it was explicitly for “short term, limited use”, but now the agency is moving to keep one or more of these sites open for up to 30 years. Congressman Zeldin also expressed his support for a much more aggressive path to phasing out open water dumping at these sites in the Long Island Sound over a period of 5-10 years, instead of 30 years, and expressed major concerns with ecological impacts on the Long Island Sound.

Congressman Lee Zeldin said,
“The EPA recently issued a proposal to extend and expand the open water dumping of dredge waste in the Eastern Long Island Sound for up to 30 years, despite nearly a year of outcry from Long Islanders opposing the revised Dredged Materials Management Plan (DMMP). This proposal is unacceptable. The EPA should immediately reverse this proposal and honor their previous commitment to permanently close the Eastern Long Island Sound disposal sites by the end of this year. Furthermore, the EPA should expedite the process to phase out the Western and Central Long Island Sound disposal sites. We need a much more aggressive path to phasing out open water dumping at these sites in the Long Island Sound. Instead of a 30 year phase out period, the Central and Western Long Island Sound dumping sites should be phased out over a 5-10 year period. The Long Island Sound, an EPA designated Estuary of National Significance and one of the nation’s most populated watersheds, is a cultural and natural treasure that provides a diverse ecosystem with more than 170 species of fish, over 1,200 invertebrates and many different species of migratory birds. The Sound is also essential to the everyday economy and livelihood of millions of Long Islanders. Over the years, water quality on Long Island has suffered severely from issues such as pollution and overdevelopment, but through work between the EPA, state and local governments, and dedicated Long Islanders, progress has been made to improve water quality and ecosystem health in the Sound. All of this we owe to the improvement of this critical ecosystem so it is critical that the EPA and Army Corps do not impede this progress through this misguided proposal. The Long Island Sound shouldn’t be a dumping ground, especially when there are many viable alternatives to open water dumping, including recycling and safe disposal on land. The public comment period regarding the Eastern Long Island Sound sites is now closed, but we reaffirm our opposition to the misguided plan to dump Connecticut’s questionable dredge waste into our critical waterway. Time and again, the people of Long Island and their elected representatives have made it clear to the EPA and to the Army Corps of Engineers that open water dumping in the Long Island Sound must be phased out. I will continue to hold the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers accountable to their previous commitment to close the eastern sites by the end of this year. On the East End of Long Island, we have been blessed with an abundance of natural resources that are important to our life and culture, and we must protect and preserve them. I will continue working as your Congressman to safeguard our environment and improve our water quality.”

New York State Senator Ken LaValle said, “It is inconceivable that while the federal, state and local governments are spending nearly a billion dollars to keep our waters clean, the EPA and Army Corps attempt to push through a plan to dump dredge spoils in the Long Island Sound. The materials are from potentially contaminated sites and could do irreparable harm to the Sound. The Environmental Protection Agency certainly is not living up to its name by working to undo our efforts to maintain the health of this vital resource. I demand the EPA and Army Corps to withdraw the dumping proposal immediately.”

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine said,
“The Town of Brookhaven is extremely concerned about the impacts to the Long Island Sound from the Army Corp’s proposed Long Island Sound Dredge Material Management Plan (LIS DMMP). I stand with New York’s state and federal elected officials and administrators in condemning this poor excuse of a document in the strongest terms. Just in the last few years we have started to enjoy the benefits of a cleaner Long Island Sound. I cannot understand why the USEPA would or should allow this plan to undo the hard and expensive work that has been done over the last two decades to restore the Long Island Sound. We simply must do better.”

“The Dredged Material Management Plan accepted by the EPA is a weak excuse to avoid seriously addressing water contamination,” stated Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker. “Hundreds of millions of dollars have been dedicated to protecting Long Island Sound. It is absolutely unacceptable to continue to dump potentially toxic dredge spoils into a body of water that generates up to $36 billion in economic value for Long Island every year. Working to identify beneficial reuses for the dredge material is imperative in order to prevent irreparable harm to Long Island’s environment, health, and economy.”

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner said, “The Town of Brookhaven is doing so much to keep the Long Island Sound and our other waterways clean, and this disposal site expansion plan is a real threat to our progress. I support Congressman Zeldin’s call to the EPA to reverse their plans before any harm is done and I urge all elected officials and environmental groups to join in our opposition to their proposal.”

“Eastern Long Island Sound is the most biologically diverse portion of this nationally important estuary. The EPA has undervalued these waters and ignores the economic harm and recreational value of the 15 fish species that use this section of the Sound for spawning, breeding and feeding grounds including winter flounder, Spanish mackerel, bluefish and Atlantic sea herring. Cornfield Shoals and the New London sites should be closed and capped, rather than allowed an additional 22.6 million cubic yards of dumping dredged materials over the next 30 years. Continuing the use of our Sound as a dump site stymies restoration efforts and prevents the advancement of a long term program for beneficial reuse of dredged materials,” said Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

“Like Congressman Zeldin, I am frustrated that the EPA has changed their position on dredging materials,” said Ashley Hunt-Martorano, Director of Marketing and Events for Citizens’ Climate Lobby. “We often hear the mantra, “reduce, reuse, recycle,” but by depositing dredged materials from Connecticut off our shores, we miss the opportunity to reuse and recycle those materials to help adapt to the threat of climate change. Instead of treating these materials like a waste product, we can use it to create barriers against bigger storm surges and sea level rise. I commend the Congressman and stand with him in asking the EPA to reconsider this ill-advised plan.”

Jeremy Samuelson, President of Concerned Citizens of Montauk, said, “With this proposal EPA is failing the millions of Americans who live and work around Long Island Sound and the Peconic Estuary. Rejecting this proposal was the right thing to do 10 years ago and it remains the right thing to do today. We can no longer act as if ocean dumping is the solution for dredge spoil disposal. Spending millions of dollars doing the wrong thing is a waste of tax payer money and fails in our collective responsibility to protect our natural resources. CCOM is calling upon the EPA to produce a management plan that lives up to their mandate of environmental protection.”

Robert S. DeLuca, President of Group for the East End, said, “EPA’s decision to expand the use of eastern Long Island’s disposal sites for open water dumping is precisely why people are so fed up with government. After spending decades of time and billions of public dollars to clean up the Sound, and finally seeing some positive results, the EPA now sees fit to turn around and transform some our healthiest Long Island Sound waters into a waste dump for decades to come. This decision fails to address the real need for alternatives to ocean dumping, and simply kicks the can down the road for another 30 years. It’s time we learn from our past mistakes and acknowledge that short term fixes like this one only serve to increase the true costs on our coastal economy and marine resources long into the future.”