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NY sues feds over LI Sound dumping plan

Friends of the Bay, one of the groups

Friends of the Bay, one of the groups volunteering to collect water samples in bays and harbors as part of an initiative to monitor the health of Long Island Sound, started taking water samples in Oyster Bay on Wednesday, May 24, 2017.

New York State on Thursday sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over a plan to dump large quantities of dredged sediment in eastern Long Island Sound.

The lawsuit, filed by the state attorney general’s office in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, seeks to block the EPA from adding a third dumping site near Fishers Island to two existing Long Island Sound dump sites off the Connecticut coast.

The sites are part of the EPA’s Dredged Material Management Plan, which would allow up to 53 million cubic yards of soil — dredged mostly from the Connecticut shoreline — to be deposited in the Sound over three decades.

In a statement Thursday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said adding the third dump site “poses a major threat to a significant commercial and recreational resource” and “undermines New York’s long-standing efforts to end dumping in our treasured waters.”

“We will continue to do everything in our power to protect New York’s environment, and with the EPA’s unfathomable and destructive decision to turn the eastern Long Island Sound into a dumping ground, now is the time for action,” Cuomo said.

The EPA declined to comment Thursday. EPA officials previously have said the plan, approved last year, is crucial for keeping waterways open to commercial and recreational boaters. Federal officials also have said potentially toxic dredged material will be screened out and either treated or contained in landfills.

The federal plan, crafted with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, calls for storing dredged material in existing sites off Stamford and New Haven, and adding a new site off New London — all in Connecticut waters.

Connecticut officials have supported the EPA plan.

State and Long Island officials and environmentalists said adding another dump site would threaten waters off the North Fork.

“I’m delighted to hear that the state has taken this action,” Assemb. Steven Englebright (D-Setauket) said. “I think it has a chance of resetting the expectations that all levels of government have for maintaining the health of the Long Island Sound.”

New York’s lawsuit states that EPA officials failed to fully consider other potential dumping sites, and also did not consider the potential impact on ferries that travel between Orient Point and New London, Connecticut.

The suit also states that the dredging plan violates the state’s right to protect the New York coastline.

“EPA’s first job is to protect our natural resources,” state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said. “Yet by designating this unneeded disposal site, EPA is allowing huge amounts of dredged waste to be poured into yet another area of the Long Island Sound.”

Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment in Farmingdale, said she was “ecstatic” about the suit.

“The Long Island Sound is not a junkyard, and we’re thrilled New York State will be defended to the fullest,” she said.

With Michael Gormley

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