Today’s news:

Grave concern over Gravesend Bay

If the city gets its way, Gravesend Bay could one day be known as Graveyard Bay, a galling possibility that environmental groups and a state lawmaker are actively trying to prevent. At issue is arrival of a waste transfer station to 1824 Shore Parkway, one of several similar facilities planned citywide as part of the Department of Sanitation’s (DOS) Solid Waste Management Plan. Those opposed to the project say it will devastate the area’s rich wildlife, including a bay teeming with fish and crustaceans, and local habitats that are important nesting areas for a wide range of bird species. The plan calls for trash to be hauled on barges, and shipped out of the region. A recent report conducted by the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey said local wildlife could be endangered if the bay’s sediment is dredged, as is planned in order to allow more depth for the barges. The report found elevated levels of lead and mercury in several soil samples. If the sediment is dredged, the hazardous heavy metals could destroy local wildlife, and endanger humans who might dine on fish caught there. In a letter obtained by this newspaper, three environmental groups give voice to their concerns to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, which has approved the overall plan but has yet to grant a permit to allow the construction of the particular facility. In the letter, the Natural Resources Protective Association, Clean Ocean Action and NY/NJ BayKeeper tell DEC Commissioner Denise Sheehan that there are a number of “significant issues” about the Southwest Marine Transfer Station that have yet to be addressed. The groups note that an environmental impact study commissioned by the city says the dredging will have a minimal impact, “since it has been preformed repeatedly at the site since its original construction.” “That is an overly simplistic assumption,” the letter reads. “Sediments that were classified as safe for ocean disposal [then] are now considered too toxic. Far more is known about the bioaccumulation of toxins,” the groups wrote. To assume that repeated dredging will have a minimal impact is “irresponsible,” the letter reads. Ida Sanoff, the chair of the Natural Resources Protective Association, said the city’s environmental impact statement was “haphazard” at best. “It seems like they are operating in a vacuum,” she said. “They seem to be completely oblivious to the natural resources they will disrupt.” Sanoff said her group has no objection to the overall trash plan. It’s just that this site is “particularly sensitive,” she said. “On the basis of the fish population alone, they should have looked elsewhere,” she said. As reported here last week, when asked to comment about environmental concerns raised about the site, a DOS spokesperson had this response: “The department’s 20-year Solid Waste Management Plan, which includes the Southwest Brooklyn Marine Transfer Station, after a comprehensive and thorough environmental review and numerous public hearings, was overwhelmingly approved by the City Council and then approved by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.” “We are moving forward with our plan that will meet all environmental regulations,” the spokesperson said. Maureen Wren, a spokesperson for the DEC, said the agency is reserving its opinion on the facility until the public weighs in on the project. “We have requested additional information from the DOS, in order to make the permit application available for the public to view,” she said. “It’s not a question of weighing in yet,” she said. “After we review the public comments, then DEC staff makes a decision.” Assemblymember William Colton, an opponent of the facility’s arrival to this site, said the hope is to “force the state to deal with the environmental concerns.” “The state has to deal with the actual merits of the environmental issues being raised,” Colton said. “We’re saying that aside from any political considerations, there are real environmental concerns that we are now raising that the city has not dealt with,” he continued. “The city has shuffled and ignored it with assurances that we don’t have to worry,” Colton said. “We do worry whenever someone says, ‘trust us,’” he said. Colton, a member of a task force formed in opposition to the facility, will host a town hall meeting on the issue on Jan. 25 at the Shore Parkway Jewish Center, 8885 26th Avenue at 7:30 p.m.

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