The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wants to create a third dump site in Long Island Sound and allow disposal of millions of cubic yards of sand and sediment in open water over the next three decades.
Despite objections from environmentalists, the federal agency is proposing to set aside an area off Fishers Island, about 2 nautical miles large, and permit more than 22 million cubic yards of dredged waste to be dumped there.
“It’s insulting to all of us who have worked so hard to protect Long Island Sound,” said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, an advocacy group based in Farmingdale. “This is the same thing we’ve been fighting for a decade.”
Two public meetings are being held Wednesday in Riverhead and Mattituck to seek the public’s opinions regarding the proposal before EPA officials make a decision. Two more such meetings are scheduled for Thursday in Connecticut. Those unable to attend, but wish to offer comments, have until June 27 to get them to the EPA.
Harbors and ports need to be dredged to allow passenger liners and cargo ships to pass safely. Since the 1980s, dredged spoils have been dumped at four sites in the Sound.
A decade ago, when dumping permits were set to expire, then-Gov. George Pataki blocked a similar plan. New York, Connecticut, the Army Corps of Engineers and the EPA agreed the Corps should come up with a plan with alternatives to dumping, which includes using dredged material to restore wetlands and cap landfills.
Those options are too expensive, the Corps said.
Critics say the federal plan ignores the intent of the 2005 agreement between New York and Connecticut to begin phasing out the need to use Long Island Sound as a waste dump and to begin using other methods of disposal.
“Instead, once again, the plan focuses on the cheapest, easiest solution open-water dumping,” Esposito said.
The four open-water dump sites are all in Connecticut state waters: Western Long Island Sound, Central Long Island Sound, Cornfield Shoals and New London. Two of the sites, Cornfield Shoals and New London, are scheduled to close Dec. 23, according to EPA.
The proposed site under consideration, named Eastern Long Island Sound Disposal Site, encompasses about half the existing New London site and other areas. In all, the recommended site is twice the size of the current New London site, according to an EPA spokeswoman.
Wednesday’s meetings are scheduled from 1 to 3 p.m. at Suffolk County Community College Culinary Arts Center in Riverhead and from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Laurel Library in Mattituck.
Those wishing to send in comments can email them to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail them to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Boston.