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Source: Southold Local

Environmentalists add voices to protest against continued dredge-material dumping in Long Island Sound


Posted: August 13, 2015
Originally Published: August 13, 2015

Environmentalists have added their voices to a plan to dump dredge materials in the Long Island Sound.

On Tuesday, Bill Toedter, president of the North Fork Environmental Council, and Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, attended the Southold town board work session to express their dismay over a plan by the Environmental Protection Agency to resurrect use of dump sites for dredge materials throughout the Long Island Sound.

Toedter said it’s “critical” to look at the plan, slated for release next week, especially because of all the work Southold Town has done around the Plum Island effort. Tidal and wave forces in New London, CT and other areas could mean a tremendous impact on local marine ecosystems, he said.

The EPA-mandated reuse of dredge materials from Connecticut is an issue, Toedter said, mainly because on the North Fork, dredge materials consist of sand, which can be used for beach replenishment. In Connecticut, those dredge materials are mainly silt and mud, some of which is high in potentially toxic contaminants.

The EPA’s argument, he said, is that the material is capped with clean dredge spoils, “but we know tidal forces, so that’s where our real concern is.”

After 10 years, the EPA and United States Army Corps of Engineers is releasing the Dredge Materials Management Plan, first discussed in 2005. Esposito said the goal had previously been to “assess all different dredge materials and their reuse abilities — with the goal of phasing out the use of the Long Island Sound as a dumping ground. That was the agreed upon goal.”

Instead, she said, the draft does not call for dredge material reuse options and instead, states that the Long Island Sound may continue to be used as an open water waste disposal facility. “This is not good news,” she said. “Our worst fears have been realized.”

Both Esposito and Toedter were outraged over a “preposterous” 30 day public comment period, for residents to weigh in on a 1,000 page document that took 10 years to craft. Environmentalists and elected officials are calling for a 120-public comment period.

Esposito listed the many potential reuse options for dredge materials, including being used for cement mixtures, filling abandoned mines in Pennsylvania, restoration of wetlands, capping of landfills, and more.

She added that one scientist says 97 percent of the dredge spoils will head straight down to the bottom of the waterway, hitting its target. ‘We thought this was miraculous. I don’t believe it,” she said. “Sometimes you have to take good science and combine it with common sense.”

She added, “You couldn’t ask for more of a status quo plan than this. There’s a facade going on here and I don’t want to be a part of it.”

The town said they would review the information presented.

“They have the audacity to propose this in a living water body?” planner Mark Terry said.

Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski also spoke out against the plan, which calls for disposal of materials dredged to maintain navigability of more than 50 channels, harbors and basins in and adjacent to the Long Island Sound .

Krupski took the federal agency to task in a letter yesterday voicing his “strong objections” to the continued use of the Sound for open-water disposal of dredged materials, the bulk of which are generated in Connecticut.

“The Long Island Sound is an estuary of national significance, and for many of the millions of people who live on Long Island and in Connecticut, it is a vital resource for fishing, recreating and commerce,” Krupski wrote. The water quality of the estuary has been degraded for decades by inappropriate land use, overdevelopment, pollution and hypoxia, he said.

“It is imperative that all governmental agencies do everything possible to protect this vitally important resource. To continue to dump dredge spoil from potentially contaminated sites is in sharp contrast to this charge,” Krupski said.

The Army Corps of Engineers currently maintains four open-water disposal sites in the L.I Sound. These sites are pits dug in the sea bottom which are filled by dredged materials. The sites were slated to close in 2016 unless a management plan was developed, Krupski said. The Army Corps in 2005, in coordination with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, was charged with developing a Dredge Material Management Plan for the Sound.

The plan and a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, which is not site specific, will be released on August 17, one week in advance of the first public hearing on the plan. (It will be accessible online here.) The Army Corps has scheduled a Monday, Aug. 24 public hearing in Port Jefferson, followed by an Aug. 25 hearing in Uniondale and two hearings in Connecticut on Aug. 26 and 27. The written comment period on the plan remains open until Sept. 18.

Esposito expressed outrage that the plan would be held only seven days after the release of the plan.

“A plan of such public import deserves to be scrutinized by stakeholders and adequate time should be given to do so,” Krupski wrote.

He called on the Army Corps to extend the public comment period to ”allow stakeholders enough time to read the documents, consider the findings and respond.”