2003-02-15 / Columnists

Sprayview Sticks and Stones

By Environmental Reporter Bernard Blum

By Environmental Reporter Bernard Blum

Dr. Suszkowski is the Chief Scientist at the Hudson River Foundation and very knowledgeable on the problem of toxic sediments in the NYNJ harbor area. He is co-chair of the Science and technical Advisory Committee of the Harbor Estuary Program and Chair of CARP – "The Contamination Assessment and reduction Project."

CARP is listed as a source for contamination information, under topics in the Human Health Indicators Harbor estuary Program Environmental Monitoring Plan.

Toxic/carcinogenic chemicals mentioned include dioxin, polychlorinated benzenes and polyaromatic hydrocarbons and heavy metals - not nice stuff to spread around!

According to its own description, CARP does the following: Assists dredge material managers by "identifying and evaluating sources of contaminants that need to be reduced or eliminated in order to render future dredged materials ‘clean’ (as defined in applicable guidelines and criteria."

It Assists by defining what actions will be most effective in abating the sources," and by determining how long it will take for sediments to achieve ‘cleanliness."

For obvious purposes the Port Authority of NYNJ is the primary CARP funding source, but also the states of NY and NJ contribute and have supportive programs. So the Port Authority funding is also influential to solve the problem of disposing of contaminated dredged sediments and future disposal problems.

It’s hard to keep up with all the assembled information without the skills of a Dr. Suszkowski. It is their pragmatism on Jamaica Bay as disposal site and with the Corps of Engineers is the National Parks Service at Gateway National Park that has been holding off a bureaucratic bulwark that has targeted Jamaica Bay not for protection, but as a perceived easy target for a despoiling disposal option!

So to repeat, the readership can tell off the Corps of Engineers too by writing to Len Houston and Bob Will, Corps Scientists at U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, NY District, 26 Federal Plazam New York, NY 10278. Send copies to elected officials and to Dr. Suszkowski at the Hudson River Foundation, 40 West 20 Street, New York, NY 10010.

In a 1999 analysis of Army Corps plans for Jamaica Bay, the National Parks Service told off the Corps in a number of ways, excerpts as follows: " It notes that several potential sites have been identified, such as Jamaica Bay, for ‘re-contouring and disposal into degraded borrow pits.’ The NPS has repeatedly identified this option as untenable with NPS/Gateway mandates and policy."

That economic analysis is flawed, however. It should include recreational fishing lost due to contaminants released by upwelling and disposal, not to mention the potential for increased flooding by drastically altering the Bay bottom topography which has stabilized over 65 years since the development of JFK Airport."

It notes "Norton Basin and ‘Little Bay’….Preliminary surveys by the NPS, and long-term monitoring activities of the NPS within the boundaries of Jamaica Bay reveal an extensive biological diversity with complex invertebrate assemblages when mussel species carpet the Bay floor. Species richness values, collectively, do not indicate this habitat as ‘degraded’ as may have been the case 10 years ago….However, use of existing pits solely as a containment/disposal option is no longer under consideration unless the pits have a demonstrable degraded habitat." …This would be fine if the site, (i.e. Grassy Bay, Norton Basin, Little Bay), were degraded, These areas within the Parks boundaries based upon 15 years of NPS data, do not fit the "degraded" category, and have exhibited increasing recovery over the last 7 – 10 years.

The NPS does not consider, however, Grassy Bay (an area once used as a sand borrow site) as a "degraded borrow pit." The benthic region of Jamaica Bay has exhibited considerable improvement in biodiversity, production and physiochemical characteristics, which shows that this term is not applied.

…"The NPS has studied Jamaica Bay/Grassy Bay for 25 years and there is a definitive resurgence in biological habitat suitability as a stabilized benthic invertebrate populations that support a winter flounder nursery and over 80 other finfish species in the Jamaica Bay region."

So what is going on with all these toxic dredge spoils threats to Jamaica Bay ecology and public health? For Friends of Rockaway I have been at the barricades against the power elitists and various agency bureaucrats using the aforementioned information and other information to defend Jamaica Bay from threats and so have perspective based on experience and it is perplexing indeed!

Eugenia Flatow (Coalition For The Bight) is just one of the power elite that takes a pragmatic regional view of the toxic dredge spoils disposal problem and promotes "consensus" bureaucratic perspectives in agency agendas! Since she has worked for the Corps of Engineers and with associates like Dr. Dennis Suszkowski (who also worked with the Corps of Engineers at the time) she has associations to promote her viewpoint.

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