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Dredged Materials Dumped Into Long Island Sound Spur Debate

A long-simmering dispute over dumping dredged materials from rivers and harbors into Long Island Sound has flared up again.

Wed August 12, 2015 - Northeast Edition

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) A long-simmering dispute over dumping dredged materials from rivers and harbors into Long Island Sound has flared up again with a new federal plan to govern disposal sites.

Connecticut backs the disposal of materials in designated areas while New York state and environmental activists are calling for the reuse of sediments. Four sites in the Sound are used for disposal, with two set to close by April unless a management plan is approved, said Jean Brochi, a Long Island Sound project manager of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Citizens Campaign for the Environment supports dredging and improved access to waterways, saying dredged material can be used to rebuild wetlands, restore beaches or supplement cement. But some sediment is polluted with pesticides, heavy metals and toxic chemicals, said Adrienne Esposito, executive director.

“Using Long Island Sound as a dumping ground is a lazy way out,’” she said.

Silt, sediment and other materials flow with rivers —mostly in Connecticut —clogging waterways and harbors where they empty. The channels and harbors must be dredged periodically to remain open for navigation.

The New York departments of State and Environmental Conservation told the Army Corps of Engineers in a July 10 letter that the Long Island Sound Dredged Material Management Plan “appears to be focused” on use of Long Island Sound under the current status quo as an open water waste disposal facility.” The goal was to reduce or eliminate the use of open water disposal, the two agencies said.

Brian Thompson, an official at the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, said areas where materials are dumped are capped by clean material.

“Connecticut is comfortable and confident in the management of materials at open waters disposal sites,” said Thompson, director of the agency’s office of Long Island Sound programs. “We have many years of data demonstrating it’s been an effective management measure.”

Long Island has more sand that can be reused for beaches than does Connecticut, officials here say.

Federal officials are recommending “beneficial uses” of dredged material be considered, Brochi said, but cautions that is “easier said than done.”

Joseph Salvatore, dredge coordinator of Connecticut’s Department of Transportation, said the state has reused dredged material from the Connecticut River ferry at Rocky Hill to cap a landfill, and dredged material from Patchogue River in Westbrook and Clinton Harbor has been used to replenish areas of Hammonasset Beach State Park.

And plans are in the works to do the same next year for 600,000 cu. yds. (458,732 cu m) of dredged material from the Housatonic River, he said.

The state has financed more than $20 million in bond funding over five years for dredging, Salvatore said.

Public hearings on the dredging plan are set for late August in Connecticut and Long Island.

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