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Residents urge board to remove cars at EPCAL, raise concerns about potential groundwater contamination

Manorville residents have long had concerns about contamination in their drinking water that may have resulted from uses at the former Navy site in Calverton. 

Now, they’re also concerned about potential groundwater contamination from the nearly 5,000 flooded cars being stored on the runways at the Enterprise Park. That subject came up during a groundwater forum the Riverhead Town Board held at Town Hall Sept. 22. The issue intensified after a car explosion was reported on the west runway Wednesday night.

Manorville resident Kelly McClinchy attended Thursday’s work session and referred to the fire as “the elephant in the room” that was not discussed.

Manorville resident Ron Martz, a longtime member of the Manorville Fire Department who was speaking on his own behalf at the water forum, warned that if the cars caught fire, “You’ve got a tremendous catastrophe.”

He said there is no water supply in that area and the nearest hydrant is in front of Reilly Enterprise on Burman Boulevard. 

“And what happened?” Ms. McClinchy asked the board Thursday. “Exactly one week later, those cars went on fire. You put our police department at risk, you put the Manorville Fire Department at risk, and you put the residents at risk. This is on all five of you.”

She urged the board to get rid of the cars “immediately.”

“We don’t care about your contract,” she said. “We don’t care how much money you’re putting in your pocket at our expense. Get rid of them before for somebody gets hurt.”

Ms. McClinchy said last week that she emailed the five Town Board members ahead of the forum regarding the salvaged cars.

“It has come to my attention that cars in transport have already gone on fire. It’s come to my attention that [there are] already oil pools on the runway,” she said.

Ms. McClinchy said that if fluids leak from the cars, “It’s going to leak out and if the path of water is coming to our house, it’s coming to us again. We can’t take anymore.”

During the forum, Mr. Martz asked, “Do they look underneath every car to see if they are leaking? That’s almost impossible.”

Deputy town attorney Anne Marie Prudenti said that Jeff Seeman, an environmental consultant hired by the town, has been at the site at least twice to inspect it, and has been accompanied by a representative of the state Department of Environmental Conservation. 

“Once in a while, a few cars come in with damage from collisions, rather than floods, and they are stored in a separate area,” Mr. Seeman said in an interview Tuesday, and added that he has not noticed any smells like oil or gas and hasn’t noticed leaking cars or discolored fluids.

“As soon as it is determined they were not flood-damaged,” he said, “cars go back out or are rejected on site.” 

Mr. Seeman said Wednesday that cars were still being brought to the site, but he said it is close to capacity.

The Town Board in its capacity as Community Development Agency, earlier this month passed a resolution to execute an agreement with Insurance Auto Auctions Corp. of Illinois to lease space for cars that were damaged from flooding due to the remnants of Hurricane Ida, which brought heavy rain to areas in the Northeast, but largely spared the East End.

The agreement with IAA is for three months with an option for two renewals.

Last week’s water forum was the first of quarterly forums the Town Board agreed during the summer to host to allow residents to discuss issues like contaminated water in parts of Manorville and Calverton.