01/04/13 11:45am
01/04/2013 11:45 AM
Sandy-damaged cars being stored in Calverton by the thousands, Riverhead, N.Y.

A screen grab from Friday’s ‘Today Show’ segment on storm-damaged cars in Calverton.

NBC’s “Today Show” visited the some 15,000 to 18,000 superstorm Sandy-damaged cars being stored on property owned by Riverhead Town in Calverton.

The more than three-minute news segment that aired Friday featured helicopter shots of a sea of cars, trucks and SUVs, as well as seperate interviews with environmentalist Dick Amper of the nonprofit Long Island Pine Barrens Society, and Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter.

“Sandy was a natural disaster nobody could do anything about. This is natural disaster in the making that’s simply an error of government,” Mr. Amper told interviewers.

Ever since the vehicles began arriving last month, environmentalists have contended that oil, gasoline and battery fluids could escape from the disabled vehicles and ultimately find their way into groundwater.

Mr. Walter countered on camera that the stored cars are like vehicles parked at shopping centers.

“This is no different than what you’d see at Smithhaven mall or Tanger mall,” he said. “This is probably less damaging to the environment.”

As previously reported by the News-Review, the bulk of storm-damaged cars are being stored on tarmacs on town-owned land at the Enterprise Park at Calverton, or EPCAL, though other vehicles are being stored at or on nearby grasslands that are privately owned.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation has ordered vehicles be removed from grass, pointing to environmental threats to protected species and groundwater.

The DEC has not objected to the town’s deals, which could amount to over $3 million over the course of a year.

The Calverton property was once used by the Grumman military contractor to test fighter jets until Grumman ended operations in the 1990s. The U.S. Navy later turned 2,900 acres over to Riverhead Town for economic development.

mwhite@timesreview.com