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Critics lining up to oppose EPA’s Long Island Sound dumping plan

That the Environmental Protection Agency appears ready to allow dumping of materials dug up from dredging in Long Island Sound didn’t come as a surprise to environmentalist Adrienne Esposito.

But the lack of any long-term plan to abandon the practice — which critics claim could harm the health of the waterway — was a “bizarre” decision, she said.

“In a perfect world they would have crafted a plan that transitions from dumping in the sound to beneficial reuse,” said Ms. Esposito, the executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “They have taken the cheap easy route out and that’s really discouraging, because the EPA is purporting to be the protectors of Long Island Sound. Now we’re learning they’re the polluters of Long Island Sound.”

Ms. Esposito is just one of the Long Island advocates criticizing the EPA’s recent conclusion, released yesterday as part of the larger plan coordinated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to continue to dump the dredge materials in Long Island Sound. Dredging — which in this case has occurred mostly in Connecticut harbors and rivers — is used to deepen waterways that had become clogged with silt and sand, making it easier and safer for ships to pass.

According to the EPA, dumping some of the dredge material in one part of the eastern Long Island Sound about 1 1/2 miles northwest of Fishers Island concentrates “the effects, if any, of disposal practices to small, discrete areas that have already received dredged material, and avoid distributing any effects over a larger geographic area.” The EPA also said monitoring will alert authorities if the material begins to spread.

Two other areas in Niantic Bay and near Cornfield Shoals could also be used for dredge material dumping instead of, or in addition to, the eastern Long Island Sound site.

Opponents of the plan claim the materials dug up through dredging could be toxic and may be diffused throughout the sound if the dumping continues. They advocate for reusing the non-toxic sand for beach replenishment and putting more dangerous material in old mines to fill them up.

“There should be no dumping of that material in Long Island Sound,” said Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski. “That water comes through that area at such a high velocity. It mixes.”

Mr. Krupski, who has long opposed the deal, accused the EPA of being biased, saying the regional director once worked in Connecticut and is putting their needs first. The Suffolk County Legislature has tried to influence the plan by securing the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo, but so far he hasn’t weighed in on the plan.

Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said he hasn’t reviewed the latest EPA documents yet, but said the town would “stand in stark opposition” to dumping in Long Island Sound.

The EPA has scheduled two meetings on the North Fork on May 25 for public comment. The first will be held at the Suffolk County Community College Culinary Arts Center on East Main Street in Riverhead from 1 to 3 p.m. A later meeting will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Mattituck-Laurel Library in Mattituck.

Both Mr. Russell and Mr. Krupski said they plan to attend the meetings, and Ms. Esposito vowed to continue fighting the plan.

“We already testified on this ad nauseum,” she said. “Dumping in Long Island Sound is archaic and the damaging practice should be stopped. The EPA should know better.”

Photo Caption: A view of Long Island Sound from Greenport. (Credit: Grant Parpan, file)