EPA rule creates disposal site for dredged sediment
HARTFORD, CONN. >> The Environmental Protection Agency issued a final decision Friday that designates a portion of eastern Long Island Sound in Connecticut waters as a disposal site for dredged sediment from Connecticut and New York ports and harbors.
The EPA’s rule was praised by Connecticut officials, including U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, a Democrat whose 2nd District includes the southeastern Connecticut shoreline. He said small marinas to the U.S. Submarine Base in Groton all rely on having a long-term placement site for dredged materials.
“This eagerly awaited step is the result of years of intensive scientific study, robust public engagement and advocacy by a wide range of interests in the region, and I firmly believe that the final product reflects the balanced approach that we all know is needed,” he said in a written statement.
The Eastern Long Island Sound Disposal Site is located just west of the current New London Disposal Site, which is closing Dec. 23.
New York last month formally objected to the proposal, saying the EPA hadn’t sufficiently considered the cumulative effects of dumping or other available disposal sites. At least one environmental group urged New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to challenge the EPA’s decision in court, claiming it ignores the state’s concerns.
“A new battle to protect Long Island Sound begins today,” said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the New York and Connecticut-based Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “In the past the enemy was sewage. Today the enemy is the federal government. It’s a sad day for all of us who love the Sound.”
Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office, said the agency took New York’s concerns “very seriously” but disagrees with its claims that the dredged sediments could threaten environmental habitats by drifting into New York. Spalding said the Connecticut disposal site location has very low current activity and the “material will end up where it’s put.”
Spalding also noted how the EPA’s new decision reduces the overall amount of sediment that’s disposed. A new team will review the dredged material and determine if any of it can be used for another purpose, such as repurposing sand and gravel to replenish eroded beaches.
“We very much want that to happen,” Spalding said.
Courtney noted how the EPA’s decision follows a recent commitment by the U.S. Navy to spend more than $5 million to plan and design a major pier replacement at the submarine base along the Thames River. He said the project will need dredging and could see significant cost increases without this disposal site.