There is an interesting story out of Southhampton, New York where a toxic tide of brown water has come in — killing fish and turning the ocean into a disgusting mix of dead fish and rust colored water. While people have raised questions about the water, it was the response of the state of New York that caught my eye: “The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation said it cannot comment on claims that it is not doing enough to protect Long Island waterways, because of a pending lawsuit.”
It is often the case that public officials use litigation as an excuse not to discuss matters that are embarrassing or damaging to their departments. There is often no such barrier posed by litigation, but the media tends to just accept the excuse.
This is one such case. It is preposterous to argue that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation cannot answer questions about a tide of toxic water washing up on the shores because someone is suing them. They have a duty to explain how the tide originated and what they could have done to prevent it. They are, after all, a public health organization. The people of New York should not have to wait for the end of years of litigation for their own environmental people to address their concerns with the environment.
The tide is likely due to the failure to control the release of fertilizers and waste into the waterways. But the state is happily being sued so the people of New York will just have to wait to hear from their government on what could have been done.