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Cuomo Threatens Lawsuit Over Dredging Along Long Island Sound

BETHPAGE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- New York state says it could cost between $269 million and $587 million and take up to 100 years to clean up contaminants from groundwater plumes in the Bethpage, Long Island area.

A Department of Environmental Conservation report released Wednesday says the contamination put drinking water at risk for 250,000 people.

As CBS2's Jennifer McLogan reported, dredging of the harbors, inlets, and rivers -- so marine traffic can move safely -- was supposed to come to an end, but the federal government continues to allow it.

Fisherman Thurman Bryant called it the decline of the Long Island Sound.

"It basically displaces the fish from their natural habitat," he said.

It was a busy day at Port Jefferson Harbor for those who love the Long Island Sound.

"We have to make sure we take care of it so it can exist for my kids and their kids," Kaitlin Meehan said.

The Keagan family had just taken the ferry from Connecticut and was surprised to see open water dumping of dredged material as they passed.

"It's dirty," an observer noted.

That's the worry and complaint from those who live on or make a living from the majestic waterway.

A controversial 30-year plan to continue dumping dredged soil, sand, and sediment into Long Island Sound was just approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Environmental Protection Agency.

"We consider Long Island sound an extension of our home. It is our front yard, it is our backyard, it is not our junk yard," Adrienne Esposito said.

Environmentalists said studies show sludge pulled from the bottoms of harbors, inlets, and rivers -- allowing cargo ships to safely pass -- can contain mercury, lead, and pesticides which harm marine life and water quality.

The state says it intends to seek financial restitution from the Navy and Northrop Grumman to restore and protect aquifers.

"By continuing to hold Northrop Grumman and the Navy accountable for their actions, we are ensuring that the responsible parties clean up the groundwater contamination, while securing compensation to revitalize local ecosystems on Long Island," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement.

Cuomo and a group of lawmakers from both sides of the aisle threatened to sue to stop the dumping.

"If that includes legal action to stop the federal government then that is what we will do because this cannot happen period," Cuomo said.

New York lawmakers are urging Connecticut's politicians and homeowners to join demands to halt the dumping as well.

The financial calculations could take several months. The Navy says it hasn't been notified of the state's intended action.

The plumes have been traced to former aviation manufacturing that used hazardous chemicals between the 1930s and 1990s.

Northrop Grumman says it has worked for decades to address the environmental issues and will also work with regulatory agencies.

The governor has urged the EPA to find a different way to dispose of the muck -- like using it restore wetlands or cap landfills.

There was no response yet from the EPA.

For more information or to read the full DEC report, click here.

(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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