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Source: Connecticut Post

CT officials vow to fight NY dredging lawsuit

BY BILL CUMMINGS

Posted: August 22, 2017
Originally Published: August 21, 2017

Connecticut officials are vowing to fight a lawsuit filed by New York State to block dumping contaminated sediment dredged from harbors and ports at a new Long Island Sound underwater disposal site.

“More than a decade of research and testing went into the decision for the location of the disposal site, and the science could not be clearer — open water disposal is safe and will not harm the wildlife or the water quality of the Long Island Sound,” said Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week sued the federal Environmental Protection Agency to overturn designation of an open water disposal site off New London, claiming the decision will harm the Sound and violates federal law.

“We will continue to do everything in our power to protect New York’s environment, and with the EPA’s unfathomable and destructive decision to turn the eastern Long Island Sound into a dumping ground — now is the time for action,” Cuomo said.

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman added “Our waters are not dumping grounds.”

The EPA decision closes an existing New London disposal site and another site off Cornfield Shoals, near the Connecticut River. A new Eastern Long Island Sound Disposal Site was created a few miles away, within Connecticut waters and near Fishers Island in New York State.

The new eastern disposal site can take up to 27 million cubic yards of dredged sediment. Two other disposal sites — off New Haven and in the Western portion of the Sound — will remain in use under the EPA plan.

Opponents say the dredged sediment, because it’s laden with heavy metals, oils and solvents, damages the Sound’s fragile ecosystem and should be transported to land based sites, a far more expensive process.

“EPA’s proposed third dump site is unnecessary and an assault on our beloved water body, the Long Island Sound,” said Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director for Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

Different views

Federal officials project that 52 million cubic yards of dredged sediment — enough material to build 12 Hoover Dams — could be disposed of in the Sound over the next 30 years to keep harbors and ports navigable.

Connecticut officials have long favored underwater disposal for most dredged material because the state’s $5 billion maritime industry is far larger than in New York State. They also maintain underwater disposal does not harm the Sound and is necessary to maintain commercial ports and recreational harbors.

“The Eastern Long Island Sound Disposal Site is vital to not only the future economic health of Connecticut, but it is also critical for the defense of our nation,” Malloy said, referring to keeping the New London naval submarine base accessible.

U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, both Connecticut Democrats, said the disposal plan will not harm the Sound.

“The plan was carefully and thoughtfully designed by federal environmental authorities after thorough scientific analysis and public input — and meets all relevant legal standards,” Blumenthal and Murphy said in a joint statement.

New York maintains the new disposal site violates a previous agreement in 2005 to reduce or eliminate dredged material disposal in the Sound and increases the amount of material to be disposed of underwater.

“EPA is allowing huge amounts of dredged waste to be poured into yet another area of the Long Island Sound,” Schneiderman said. “That's unacceptable. We won’t hesitate to act when the federal government fails to uphold its obligation to protect New Yorkers’ health and environment.”