Riverhead Town officials plan to ask Insurance Auto Auctions to remove electric cars from the runway and taxiway at Enterprise Park at Calverton, where IAA has been storing flooded cars in the aftermath of two recent hurricanes.
There were 30 electric cars at the site as of Thursday morning, officials said. The total number of cars at the site is about 4,800.
The town is concerned about the electric cars since one exploded in a Sept. 29 fire at the site, where several other cars were damaged.
This in turn has raised concerns from nearby residents who have already had problems with contaminants from the EPCAL site in their drinking water.
The town has a contract with IAA that dates back to 2014, when Hurricane Sandy flooded thousands of cars on the East Coast.
Councilwoman Catherine Kent said she is concerned that firefighting foam was used to put out the fire. Ms. Kent, who is running for town supervisor in next month’s election, had asked that the issue be put on the work session agenda last Thursday.
Firefighting foam has been blamed for groundwater pollution at the EPCAL site and throughout the nation.
“I was out there the night of the fire and it was verified that the foam is safe, and I think you’ve been informed of that,” Supervisor Yvette Aguiar told Ms. Kent.
The Riverhead Town Board voted Sept. 8 on a resolution to execute an agreement with IAA that will allow cars to be stored on the runway and taxiway adjacent to the 7,000-foot runway at EPCAL, for a fee of $4,175 per month for 50 acres.
Most of the cars were flooded in Hurricane Ida.
Officials said the agreement with IAA is the same agreement the town had during Hurricane Sandy in 2014.
The town has been making $25,000 per year from IAA since them to retain the agreement.
Ms. Kent said there should be a better use of the EPCAL land.
Town Attorney Bob Kozakiewicz said the $25,000 per year they have received for 8 years was helpful in funding the Community Development Agency budget, which doesn’t have a separate line for litigation.
He said that agreement is temporary and the town can end the deal immediately if the town has a sale or lease of the property.
Mr. Kozakiewicz said the type of fire foam that was used was determined to be environmentally safe and the runway is above the groundwater divide.
“It’s not going south. It’s going north,” he said. “That’s a given fact and for some reason that continues to get lost in this mix.”
“It did come up and the community is talking about it and concerned about it,” Ms. Kent said.
Deputy Town Attorney Anne Marie Prudenti said the town has been doing random inspections of the site and fire marshal Craig Zitek also does frequent inspections.
The discussion took place during a heated board meeting where the board’s four Republican members left the room as Ms. Kent, the lone Democrat, attempted to continue a discussion about the storage of the cars.
“To continue beating this dead horse to me, and making it redundant, is ridiculous,” said Councilman Tim Hubbard. “All of this information has been presented publicly time and time again.”