Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Rockaway) announced he introduced legislation that would prohibit potentially hazardous dredging materials from being poured into Jamaica Bay to fill borrow pits (A.9871).
“These materials are a potential danger to our families and Jamaica Bay’s valuable ecosystem,” Assemblyman Goldfeder said. “Federal guidelines do not allow these materials in oceans and other federally regulated waters and we should not be treated any differently especially when we rely on the bay for so much of our local economic activity.”
“While the placement of this toxic fill is federally prohibited in the open ocean waters a loophole existed that did not prohibit such placement in the waters of the bay. This legislation, if approved, should put an end to the outrageous plan that would have sought to save a few dollars in disposal fees while turning the bay into another ‘Love Canal,’” said Dan Mundy, Vice-President of the Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers, a local bay watchdog group. “It will also force the Port Authority to seek sustainable solutions for the disposal of this sediment such as heat treatment/recycling which will put this material to good use while not harming an ecological treasure such as Jamaica Bay.”
The legislation, drafted by Assemblyman Goldfeder would work to correct the longstanding problem of using sub-quality dredging material to fill borrow pits in the bay area. The Army Corps of Engineering currently regulates the kinds of material that can be used to fill these pits in federal waters, but as of now, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) does not have guidelines for state waters, such as Jamaica Bay. The legislation prohibits the DEC from issuing a permit allowing hazardous materials to be used in the filling of the Jamaica Bay borrow pits.
“The Jamaica Bay Ecowatcher’s commend Assemblyman Goldfeder for the legislation that he has introduced to prohibit the dumping of contaminated fill into the waters of Jamaica Bay,” Mundy said. “For over thirty years environmental groups have battled against the proposal to dump contaminated fill from the NY harbor dredging projects into the deep “borrow pits” of Jamaica Bay.”
Dredging is necessary in order to maintain safe navigation channels in the area’s shallow, 19-foot harbor for oil tankers, bulk vessels and container ships, some of which require depths exceeding 45 feet for passage, according to the Dredged Material Management Plan. Even so, there should be guidelines to prevent harmful and long-lasting environmental effects, noted Assemblyman Goldfeder.
“We have a responsibility to our community and our environment to keep the area safe and economically viable,” Assemblyman Goldfeder said. “This legislation would protect the bay and its valuable resources for many years to come.”