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NYS preparing legal action against EPA over proposed dumping

Long Island Sound Greenport

New York State is preparing to sue the Environmental Protection Agency over its decision to permanently allow dumping of dredged material in the Long Island Sound, according to a press release from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office.

“As I have said time and again, New York is deeply concerned with the EPA’s efforts to designate a permanent dumping site in the eastern part of the Long Island Sound,” Mr. Cuomo said in his statement Tuesday. “Continuing to use this precious economic and ecological resource as a dumping ground is unacceptable and — on behalf of current and future generations of New Yorkers — we intend to fight this decision using any and all legal means.”

The state’s pushback came on the same day as the EPA’s final ruling to designate the eastern Long Island Sound site a disposal area for materials pulled up by dredging projects in Connecticut and elsewhere.

While the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has said the waste will be tested for toxins before being dumped into the sound, environmental advocates still fear the process will affect water quality.

In 2005, the EPA set up a goal of reducing or eliminating dredge dumps in Long Island Sound. The latest plan to allow new dump sites in waters off Southold Town “contradicts this agreement,” Mr. Cuomo stated.

The governor also said the state will sue the EPA under the federal Ocean Dumping Act, a 1972 law that limits or prevents dumping that would could pose a threat to human health and welfare, the marine environment or local economies.

The state Departments of State and Environmental Conservation has accused the EPA of not considering the cumulative effects of dumping into the sound and failing to look into alternatives.

“Long Island Sound is an essential economic and environmental treasure in New York and one in which the state has invested billions to restore,” DEC commissioner Basil Seggos said in a statement. “DEC commends Gov. Cuomo’s resolve in ensuring this vital estuary is not turned into a dumping ground.”

In an interview Wednesday morning, Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell — who has opposed the dumping — described the EPA’s ruling as “stupidity, arrogance, incompetence or all three.”

“It is a shame that it needs to get to the level where a state government has to sue the federal government to make sure the will of the public is followed,” Mr. Russell said. “This is the same federal government that takes swift action on road signs. It is the same federal government that has spent millions of dollars to restore the Long Island Sound and has declared it a national estuary.”

New York State must now wait 60 days from the EPA’s ruling before filing a legal claim against the agency under the Ocean Dumping Act, officials said.

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File photo: The Long Island Sound in Greenport. (Credit: Grant Parpan)