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Schumer joins local, state officials in opposing federal Long Island Sound dredging plan

Sen. Chuck Schumer talks during a press conference

Sen. Chuck Schumer talks during a press conference in Hauppauge on Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2015. Photo Credit: James Carbone

Sen. Chuck Schumer has joined state and Long Island officials who have expressed alarm over a federal report that says dredged sediment from Connecticut rivers could be safely buried in the Long Island Sound for up to 30 years.

In a statement released to Newsday, Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the report, released last week by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, has "some serious flaws" that could cause polluted mud and sand to be deposited in four existing disposal sites off the Connecticut coast.

"I will continue to push for every one of our questions to be answered and maintain that any plan that puts contaminates into the Long Island Sound is a plan that should not fly," Schumer said.

Federal officials defended their proposed dredging plan last week, saying dredged sediment, mostly from Connecticut waters, poses no harm to the environment.

The Army Corps routinely dredges dozens of sites in Connecticut and New York, including Long Island waters such as Hempstead, Huntington, Port Jefferson and Lake Montauk harbors.

The first of four public hearings on the proposed plan will be held at 6 p.m. Monday at Village Center in Port Jefferson. Another is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Long Island Marriott hotel in Uniondale. Federal officials say they hope to complete the disposal plan in December.

Army Corps project manager Meghan Quinn said dredged material would be placed in the Sound only with approval by the federal Environmental Protection Agency after "very rigorous" testing. In addition to the Sound, some sediment may be moved to landfills or used for beach and dune restoration, she said. Contaminated soil would be treated, she said.

Mel Cote, an official in the EPA's New England office, said dredged material has been placed in the Sound for 40 years. "Dredging has never been something that has caused any kind of problems," he said.

The New York Department of State last week also criticized the plan, saying federal officials had ignored a 2007 agreement with New York and Connecticut officials to curtail dumping dredged material in the Sound.

"There doesn't appear to be any major revisions that achieve the goal of decreasing the amount of open-water disposal of dredged material over the next 30 years in the Long Island Sound from current levels," spokesman Laz Benitez said in a statement.

Rob Klee, commissioner of Connecticut's Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, said in a statement that he supported the federal plan.

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