Gov. Andrew Cuomo at Sunken Meadow State Park in August 2016. Courtesy photo: Governor's office

New York State will sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to block designation of the eastern Long Island Sound as a permanent disposal site for dredged materials.

The state notified the EPA Tuesday that the designation is “a direct violation of the designation criteria outlined in existing federal law, referred to as the Ocean Dumping Act,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday.

The EPA on Tuesday published its final rule designating the disposal site – a designation which, when proposed, drew strenuous objection from environmental activists as well as town, county, state and federal elected officials across Long Island.

Congressman Lee Zeldin and environmental advocates at a September 2015 press conference objecting to the plan to continue dumping waste into the Long Island Sound for the next 30 years. File photo: Katie Blasl
Congressman Lee Zeldin and environmental advocates at a September 2015 press conference objecting to the plan to continue dumping waste into the Long Island Sound for the next 30 years. File photo: Katie Blasl

The state must wait 60 days before it can file a legal claim against the EPA under the Ocean Dumping Act.

“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,” Cuomo said Tuesday.

In 2005, New York State called for a regulatory goal of reducing or eliminating dredged material disposal in the open waters of the Long Island Sound, the governor said. The EPA subsequently set that goal. It’s current plan to allow new dumping sites in eastern Long Island Sound contradicts this agreement, the governor said.

Cuomo’s announcement drew immediate support from environmental advocates.

Adrienne Esposito of Citizen’s Campaign for the Environment called the L.I. Sound dumping expansion plan a “reckless plan that will damage this estuary.”

“Long Island Sound is an ecological gem that should not to be used as a dump site,” she said. The Sound is an extension of our backyards; a beloved waterway for fishing, swimming, clamming, boating, kayaking, and more. We are grateful that New York understands the economic and environmental value of this precious resource and is willing to fight to protect it,” she said.

We have made great strides in restoring the health of the Sound, seeing dolphins and whales return. Continued dumping thwarts this progress.

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According to an examination conducted by the New York Departments of State and Environmental Conservation, the EPA has not sufficiently considered the cumulative effects of dumping dredged materials into the Sound, did not prioritize alternatives to open water dumping, and didn’t go far enough in analyzing other existing and available disposal sites, Cuomo said in a press release.

New York also maintains that increasing the volume of open-water disposal of dredged materials, and the number and availability of open water disposal sites, is inconsistent with public investment and policies that are already in place aimed at restoring the Long Island Sound, according to the release. “Further, the EPA has not been responsive to the State’s concern about the sediment testing and its reliability and has made insufficient assurances that the dredged material will not have a negative impact on the environment.”

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.