More cigarette butts and plastic bottles could be floating around in the Long Island Sound due to a revised Connecticut state policy that allows dumping snow into the Island’s main waterway, local environmentalists said.
Connecticut municipalities may, as a last resort, dispose snow into the Sound, Connecticut state Department of Environmental Protection officials announced earlier this month. The measure became a necessary option due to the inordinate amount of snowfall this winter, officials said.
That decision has environmentalists here concerned about the future health of the Sound.
“It’s one more assault on Long Island ecology,” said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, a non-profit organization with offices in Farmingdale and Hamden, Conn. “We’ve worked for 20 years to restore and protect the Sound and — while we understand that the state is making this the exception and not the rule — we wish there was a better option.”
The policy states municipalities must first look to melt snow with equipment or clear it onto upland lots, where contaminants in the snow will be filtered before seeping into groundwater.
When snow is plopped right into the Sound without a filter system, contaminents — including oil, gasoline, roadway waste and animal feces — are unleashed into the water.
The revised policy says only snow and ice not visibly contaminated with anything other than salt and sand may be dumped into the Sound, but Ms. Esposito said plenty of unseen contaminants could be lurking in the snow and entering the water.
“You can’t see gasoline and a lot of the chemical contaminants,” she said. “You can’t see white cigarette butts in the snow either.”
Peconic Baykeeper Kevin McAllister said Connecticut’s new policy contradicts the push by regional municipalities to address pollution from stormwater runoff.
The pollution that will enter the Sound from the snow disposal, he said, essentially has the same negative effects of runoff: sediment build-up, reduced ecological health and higher bacteria levels.
“We should be striving to clean up our waters as opposed to contribute to their degradation,” he said.