NORWALK, Conn. -- The Long Island Soundkeeper says New York officials won't reveal how much sewage is being discharged by New York City's treatment plants into the waters surrounding the metropolis.
The Norwalk-based private environmental group recently filed an action in the New York Supreme Court seeking to force the New York Department of Environmental Protection to obey the guidelines of the New York Freedom of Information Law and release the discharge data.
Soundkeeper Terry Backer said lobsters are dying in the western part of the sound at an alarming rate, and he wants to know why.
He specifically wants to know how much sewage is being discharged by several plants into the Sound, as well as Jamaica Bay and the East River.
Last year, Backer filed a FOIL inquiry seeking the information.
He also joined Connecticut in a lawsuit accusing New York City of violating the federal Clean Water Act. Backer said the group has gone to court because the NYDEP has ``all but ignored our FOIL request.''
The records sought by Soundkeeper have been cited in draft reports by NYDEP and the federal Environmental Protection Agency, in which the agencies support the need to revise New York city's discharge permits, he said.
``Such revisions would allow these plants to continue discharging nitrogen into the East River and Long Island sound at current levels rather than the stringent discharge reductions originally called for in their permits, reductions which the city has thus far failed to meet,'' Backer said.
He also said the records sought by the Soundkeeper may play a significant role in what he called ``a larger effort by certain groups to roll back overall water quality standards in the Sound, a move that is directly at odds with the stated intent of the federal Clean Water Act.''
Backer said the information is vital to his group's efforts to protect the Sound.
``Lobstermen in the extreme western Sound have reported massive die-offs of lobsters in recent years,'' he said. ``Environmental stresses such as elevated nitrogen levels undoubtedly play a significant role in this and other harms to marine life.''
Eighteen months of research showed New York City's discharge of nitrogen into the Sound had exceeded limits by several million pounds in one year, he said. New York City officials have disputed his figures.
Return to the U.S. Water News Archives page
Return to the U.S. Water News Homepage