Group sues to delay beach project

November 6, 2008 7:30:53 PM PST
An environmental group has filed suit to delay a planned $9 million beach replenishment project at the Jersey Shore until more testing is done on the site where the sand is to be dredged. In court papers filed this week in U.S. District Court in Trenton, the Jersey Shore chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, a nonprofit environmental advocacy group, claims the project could place hazardous contaminants on the beaches of Long Branch.

Specifically, the lawsuit seeks to require the Army Corps of Engineers to do a chemical study of the sand it will dredge from an area off Sandy Hook and transport it to Long Branch.

The area is in close proximity to several sources of pollution and wastewater, including outflow from New York Harbor.

According to the court filing, there is "a substantial risk that the Corps will transport toxic contaminants and fecal coliform-laden sand to the beaches of Long Branch."

Shellfishing is prohibited in the area where the sand is to be dredged because of high levels of fecal coliform, according to the lawsuit.

About 500,000 to 1 million cubic yards of sand is to be collected and used as beach fill in an area north of Lake Takanassee in Long Branch. The project is part of a broader project to control beach erosion along the New Jersey coastline.

The Army Corps of Engineers referred a request for comment to the U.S. Attorney's Office, which did not respond to a telephone and e-mail message Thursday.

Surfrider contends that the Corps is relying on a nearly 20-year-old environmental impact statement for the Long Branch project and that there has not been a chemical study performed on the sand.

"We are not saying this material is definitely contaminated. In fact we hope it is not," Surfrider spokesman Brian Lynch said. "We just think it should be tested so we can know it is safe."

U.S. District Judge Mary L. Cooper declined to issue a temporary restraining order on Thursday, and a hearing on Surfrider's request for a preliminary injunction was scheduled for Nov. 20, according to James Sullivan, an attorney representing Surfrider.

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