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New York files suit against EPA over Long Island Sound dumping plan

New York State is suing the Environmental Protection Agency for dumping dredged materials in Long Island Sound.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced Thursday that the State of New York would be taking legal action against the EPA after it said in 2016 it would dump dredged materials into the eastern Sound.

Two of the dumping sites are due north of the North Fork. According to a press release, the EPA’s site designation violates both the Ocean Dumping Act and the Coastal Zone Management Act. Dredged materials from Connecticut have been disposed of in the Long Island for at least 10 years now.

“We’re very encouraged by the lawsuit,” said Aaron Virgin, vice president of Group for the East End. “We think it’s a travesty that they would take dredged material that could have potentially hazardous material in it and dump it off our shore.”

Environmentalists have spoken out against this because the dredged materials from Connecticut could be toxic and the effects on the environment are unknown and potentially dangerous. The two North Fork sites are Cornfield Shoals, just north of Greenport, and another near New London, Conn., west of Fishers Island.

“It’s an environmental catastrophe waiting to happen,” Mr. Virgin said. “Once you start spreading that stuff around, there’s no telling where it’s going to end up.”

Kevin McAllister said he has been involved in efforts to stop the EPA from dumping in the Sound for about ten years now. He is president of Defend H20, a Sag Harbor-based not-for-profit formed in June 2014 to protect Long Island beaches, groundwater, wetlands and surface waters.

“I’ve always felt that they’ve fit the science to basically justify the dumping,” Mr. McAllister said. “It’s not common sense to know that it’s a bad idea.”

He added: “The point I kept making is that where they are dredging from, like the river mouths, are generally sinks for high contaminants. I think it’s a very positive pushback on a bad decision.”

Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), who represents eastern Long Island, said that the Long Island Sound dumping sites were explicitly for “short-term, limited use.”

“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,” Mr. Zeldin said in an email. “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.

“We need a much more aggressive path to phasing out open water dumping at these sites in the Long Island Sound,” he added.

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