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Strong Protections Established for Management of Dredged Sediment in Long Island Sound

Release Date: 05/19/2005
Contact Information:

Contact: David Deegan, EPA Office of Public Affairs, (617) 918-1017,

For Immediate Release: May 19, 2005; Release # dd050523

EPA New England’s regional administrator, Robert Varney, will today sign a rulemaking that establishes strong protection measures to ensure that dredged sediment disposed of in Long Island Sound will undergo rigorous oversight to reduce potential concerns for human health or the ecological integrity of the Sound.

Also included in today’s action is a commitment by EPA, the states of Connecticut and New York, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, to develop a comprehensive Sound-wide dredged material management plan with the goal of reducing or eliminating disposal of dredged material into Long Island Sound.

“Working with our partners, we will ensure that dredged sediment is managed in the best and most appropriate manner, so that ecological health won’t be compromised,” said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA’s New England regional office. “EPA will continue to ensure that no highly contaminated sediments are dumped back into the Sound, and we will continue to do our work in an open and public manner.”

“This is an agreement that protects one of Connecticut’s most important and irreplaceable natural resources - Long Island Sound - while allowing essential dredging work to move forward,” Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell said. “We want to make sure that these sediments are handled as responsibly as possible. We also have a responsibility to make sure our ports and harbors are maintained. We have made enormous strides in recent years in improving the environmental quality of the Sound,” the Governor said. “We are restoring natural habitat and tidal wetlands, and we have significantly improved water quality. This is another step to balance the protection of this critical resource and our vital ports and harbors.”

“This is a great victory for all of the communities located on the Long Island Sound and for those who make use of its waters, including the commercial fishing industry, recreational boaters and everyone who swims along the Sound’s wonderful beaches,” New York State Governor George E. Pataki said. “This agreement will protect the open waters of Long Island Sound from harmful dredged materials, so that we can preserve this precious water resource for generations to come.”

"We are very pleased by this regional agreement of national significance," says EPA's Assistant Administrator for Water, Benjamin Grumbles. "We look forward to working together with our partners to develop a dredged material management plan for this vital and valuable resource."

“This unique forward-thinking agreement to manage dredge material between EPA, the Army Corps of Engineers and our partners in New York and Connecticut will ensure that Long Island Sound remains a productive resource for our region,” said Kathleen Callahan, acting regional administrator for EPA Region 2.

Today’s action builds on several years of intensive environmental assessment regarding the safe disposal of dredged sediment in a process that has included numerous opportunities for public input and comment. Following months of collaboration among EPA, the states of Connecticut and New York, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, EPA is designating two sites in Long Island Sound to be available for long-term open-water disposal of dredged sediments under stringent conditions, including a requirement that on-shore disposal sites are considered and deemed infeasible before open-water disposal is allowed.

Moving forward on the site designations was agreed to by the two states, the Army Corps and EPA. The agreement imposes site use restrictions designed to reduce or eliminate disposal of dredged material in Long Island Sound to the greatest extent practicable. Continued use of the sites is contingent on development of a comprehensive Sound-wide dredged material management plan.

A rigorous oversight process is triggered by today’s action, ensuring a more comprehensive study of disposal alternatives is undertaken. Before disposal of dredged material may be authorized at an open-water site, it must be determined that there are no practicable, environmentally preferable management options available. The type of alternatives that are generally considered include upland disposal (e.g., at a landfill), beneficial use (e.g., beach nourishment), or sediment treatment technologies that might render the material suitable for other types of uses.
Open-water disposal, if necessary, will continue to require authorization from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and is subject to EPA review. Specifically, the dredged material must satisfy environmental impact criteria contained in existing regulations.

Linking the site designations to use restrictions also supports the goal of reducing or eliminating disposal of dredged material into Long Island Sound. Continued use of these sites will depend on making progress toward and completion of a comprehensive dredged material management plan for Long Island Sound to help manage dredged materials in a cost-effective and environmentally acceptable manner.

Making these sites available for use will assist in managing dredged material from harbors and navigation channels in coastal areas of N.Y. and Conn. within the vicinity of Long Island Sound. The site use restrictions will allow three previously permitted dredging projects – in Norwalk, Conn., and in Rye and New Rochelle, N.Y. – to proceed in a timely fashion.

The two open water disposal sites will be subject to newly developed, detailed management and monitoring protocols to track site conditions and prevent the occurrence of unacceptable adverse effects. EPA may choose to close the sites or limit further disposal activity if their use causes unacceptable adverse impacts to the marine environment or human health.

The open water site designations may be suspended or terminated if the various control measures or the regional dredged material management plan are not carried out in accordance with restrictions included in the final rule.

This action is the culmination of several years of work that has included extensive amounts of public comment and participation. EPA finalized an Environmental Impact Statement on the potential site designations in March, 2004.

Further information on the two sites in Long Island Sound, as well as the Environmental Impact Statement associated with EPA’s evaluation of these and other disposal sites, is available at: