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HELP STOP Ocean Dumping of Toxin-laced Muck

(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association February 2000 Newsletter)

 

ATTEND PUBLIC HEARING

The Army Corps of Engineers will hold a public hearing to obtain public comment on the recent ocean disposal of toxin-laced mud just off our beaches from the

PORT AUTHORITY of NY and NJ’S BROOKLYN MARINE TERMINAL

Monday, January 24, 2000
Fort Monmouth Post Theater
Fort Monmouth, NJ

Time: 2-5 p.m. and 7 p.m. to closing

Directions to Fort Monmouth, NJ: Take Exit 105 off the Garden State Parkway. At third traffic light make a left onto Wycoff Road and follow to second light. Turn left onto Route 35 north. Follow approximately 1.5 miles. The entrance to Fort Monmouth is on your right. Turn right into the Fort. The Theater is down a few hundred yards on your left.

BACKGROUND

Immediately following the Thanksgiving Holiday, the public was blindsided by the ocean dumping of nearly 120,000 tons of toxin-laden muck from the East River. The Army Corps of Engineers, under tremendous pressure from our elected officials and the public, has reopened the public comment period to allow the public to express views. The material from the Port Authority of NY/NJ’s Brooklyn Marine Terminals is contaminated with high levels of PCB’s and other harmful pollutants. It is like black mayonnaise; the mud is made up of 99% silt/clay. Silt and clay are the finest-grained sediment-particles to which contaminants attach. However, the federal agencies claim the material is clean and issued a 3 year permit to allow up to 280,000 tons per year to be ocean-dumped.

IT’s Too Dirty For New York’s waterway

The State of New York was so concerned about the toxins in the mud that it placed strict limitations on how and when the muck could be dredged. NY State Department of Environmental Conservation said:

The Brooklyn Marine Terminal sediments "showed levels of contaminants that necessitate dredging restrictions to prevent widespread impacts on marine biota due to the resuspension of sediment during the dredging operation."

"Further, the tests on marine life showed significant toxicity of the mud"

Due to these concerns, NY prohibited dredging between December 15, 1999 and April 1, 2000. In addition, no water or muck could overflow the barge and run back into the river. NY State also required an environmental bucket (a device used to reduce muck seeping out during dredging) and required that the bucket be slowly pulled though the water to further reduce muck from seeping out.

Clearly, NY was very concerned about the muck getting back into its waterways. If this material is too toxic for New York’s East River, one of the most polluted waterways in the nation, it is too toxic for our ocean.

THIS IS JUST THE BEGINNING OF A NEW TOXIC TIDE OFF OUR SHORE…

THE MAIN PROBLEM:

In July 1996, an Agreement was reached that would end dumping of contaminated mud in the ocean, develop environmentally sound alternatives for contaminated material, and meet the real dredging needs for the shipping industry in the region. Historically, mud was dumped at the Mud Dump Site, located approximately 6 miles off the Jersey Shore.

EPA finally recognized that a large swath of ocean around the Mud Dump had been contaminated by previous years of ocean dumping and other sources of pollution and that the area needed to be rendered safe for marine life by placing a clean cap over the area. The area (named the Historic Area Remediation Site, HARS) begins just 3.5 miles off Sandy Hook, NJ. HARS suffers from elevated levels of toxins in the mud, elevated levels of toxins in the animals that live there, and low survival rates for an important indicator species.

The Agreement stipulated that only uncontaminated material could be placed as cap material . This so-called "Category 1" material must also pose no harmful effects to marine life, including through the food chain, and must reduce impacts caused by previous dredge spoil dumping.

Several months after the Agreement, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) changed the definition of uncontaminated material and our ocean was threatened again. On September 1, 1997, the EPA closed the ocean to disposal of contaminated materials but continues to use its new definition of "clean".

The definition now used by Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers (COE) to define Category 1/Clean Material is illegal and outrageous.

This definition flies in the face of public trust and against the commitments of Vice President Al Gore to end ocean dumping off the Jersey Shore. Lack of public process and the pollution of our ocean have justified the public in losing trust in these federal agencies. Elected officials and these agencies must be held accountable.

No more dumping of material in the ocean can be unless and until strict standards are developed that will reduce impacts from sediment contamination. The public will be the judge of these standards.

Dredging is necessary to maintain safe navigation channels. However, alternatives to open water disposal are available. New Jersey has developed alternatives, while New York has failed to develop alternatives -- counting on dumping off the Jersey Shore.

New Jersey has developed many alternatives that treat the mud, turning it into a reusable product. In fact, NJ has more environmentally sound alternatives than mud. (Companies are actually fighting over contracts for mud). In stark contrast, New York has failed to develop any alternatives, even though they were provided $50 million dollars in 1996 to develop alternatives. Renewed ocean dumping will stop any incentives for NY to implement environmentally sound alternatives for material from NY waters. Finally, if NY begins cheap and easy ocean dumping, NJ shippers will follow. Not only will this be devastating to the shores of NJ and NY, but would also set-back all the advances that NJ has made in developing and implementing dredged material treatment alternatives.

Prepared by Clean Ocean Action.

For more information call (732)872-0111 or visit our website at www.CleanOceanAction.org.

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