ENVIRONMENTALISTS' CONCERN IN NY-NJ DISPOSAL ISSUE: HEALTH THREAT AT OCEAN SITE

ENVIRONMENTALISTS' CONCERN IN NY-NJ DISPOSAL ISSUE: HEALTH THREAT AT OCEAN SITE

Your editorial of March 6 (''At stake in NY-NJ,'' Page 6) omits the critical points of the environmental groups and therefore misses the major issue at hand.

The primary concern of environmentalists is not public exposure to trace amounts of toxins on the beaches. Instead it is exposure to potent carcinogenic chemicals that have been shown in scientific studies to enter into seafood in a highly fished area of the Atlantic.The levels of polychlorinated biphenyls and dioxin in seafood caught in the Historic Area Remediation Site area are so high that they pose a risk to human health in the form of cancer and birth defects. This threat is real enough that the current Environmental Protection Agency limits for human consumption are exceeded in some cases.

The need to clean up the HARS is not at issue, but the definition of what is clean material suitable for disposal at the HARS site needs to be re-examined.

The fishing and tourism industries are also important regional commercial entities, and they are impacted by continued offshore dumping by the port.

Furthermore, the environmental groups do not oppose dredging of shipping channels, nor do they argue against improvements of the New York and New Jersey ports. In fact, many alternatives to ocean disposal of dredged materials would create new jobs in the environmental industry that would have an additional positive economic effect on commerce and jobs in this area.

The onus is on the Environmental Protection Agency and the politicians to broker an effective compromise to this volatile situation before an impending legal storm brings dredging and dumping to a halt.

Kevin O'Driscoll, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor Molecular Neuro-Oncology Columbia University New York

JOC PREACHES TO THE CHOIR ON HARBOR DREDGING

''At stake in NY-NJ'' (March 6, Page 6) was a fine editorial on the need to dredge New York harbor channels as well as provide cover for the Mud Dump pollution. Unfortunately, I fear you are preaching to the choir.

The leaders of the opposition, notably Clean Ocean Action, have never allowed facts to stand in the way of their fulminations and distortions. It is unfortunate that they have been able to enlist Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., in their efforts to overturn the Gore plan. I hope that the Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency will be able to resist their importunings.

They do have one point, though. As I understand it, New York City and state have done little if anything to provide disposal sites for contaminated spoil, in contrast to the efforts of both New Jersey and the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey.

On another matter, congratulations on an outstanding obituary and editorial on Ron Gottshall (article, ''Gottshall, ex-TWRA director, dies at 67,'' March 2, Page 11; editorial, ''Ronald B. Gottshall,'' March 7, Page 6). As you point out, he will be missed.

David B. Letteney, Highlands, N.J.

A DISTINCT DIFFERENCE IN PUERTO RICO MARKET IS THE FUEL VESSELS BURN

In response to ''No easy choices for Marad in Matson case'' (column, Feb. 29, Page 8):

We agree with your conclusion that U.S. yards turn out high-quality, innovative and acceptably priced tug and barge vessels. Our new Triplestack Box Carriers, the first vessels in the world built exclusively for 53-foot containers, are abject testimony to just that.

However, we also consider our non-self-propelled vessels to be deep-water vessels. After all, they routinely pass over the Puerto Rico Trench, which at 8,000 meters is almost as deep as Mt. Everest is tall. By definition, vessels that traverse some of the deepest water in the ocean are deep-water vessels.

A distinction between our non-self-propelled vessels and the self-propelled vessels in the Puerto Rico market is fuel. We burn a more refined distillate fuel compared with the residual bunker fuel that our competitors with self-propelled vessels choose to burn.

The 1995 Lloyd's Register ''Marine Exhaust Emissions Programme'' concluded that our fuel type had less than one-seventh the particulate matter and NOX (oxides of nitrogen) in terms of grams per kilowatt-hour.

Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, the municipality closest to the Port of San Juan, has the poorest air quality in all of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 2 because of the collective effect of all of the self-propelled vessels that choose to burn residual bunker fuel.

We are proud of the fact that our innovative, cost-efficient vessels are also environmentally superior. We applaud Totem Ocean Trailer Express for incorporating important environmental features into its planned $150 million self-propelled vessels, but point out that, on a unit mile basis, our present vessels actually produce less particulate matter and NOX. Ironically, it is the vessels now operated in Puerto Rico by TOTE's affiliate Sea Star that introduce the most particulate matter and NOX into the atmosphere and the Guaynabo area per container moved.

We will continue to embrace our vessel differences. As new information becomes available, it will be clear to others what is already clear to us: We have a better and more environmentally responsible business model for serving the domestic trades, now and particularly in the future.

John D. McCown, Chairman and CEO Trailer Bridge New York