Battery fire waste sent to Riverhead

When a fire broke out in a lithium Ion bike repair shop in Manhattan last month — killing four people who lived above the store — the charred remains of those bikes ended up in Riverhead Town, specifically at Eastern Environmental Solutions in Manorville. That angered former town councilwoman Barbara Blass, who raised the issue at the July 6 Town Board meeting. 

“This is hazardous waste,” she said. “I am outraged that anyone be allowed to dump their hazardous waste in our town.

“There is no such authorized site in Manorville or anywhere else in the Town of Riverhead — or anywhere on Long Island for the matter — because we are over a sole source aquifer,” she added.

Michael Flynn, president and founder of Eastern Environmental Systems, said in an interview Friday that his company, located on Line Road in Manorville, is a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation licensed transporter. 

“We were contacted by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection on the day of the fire, and we coordinated with the DEP and the building’s owners,” Mr. Flynn said. 

He said his company removed the lithium ion batteries and secured them into special drums that will be transported to a facility in Connecticut. 

The issue first came up during a Town Board work session on June 29 when board members discussed enacting a law requiring all lithium battery powered items sold within the town to be in compliance with Underwriters Laboratories safety standards. 

The subject of the New York City fire arose when town fire marshal Andrew Smith mentioned that the remains from that Manhattan fire were being brought to a firm in Manorville — and that those remains had caught fire twice while they were being transported. 

Mr. Flynn confirmed this. The first time, he said, a drum containing lithium ion batteries that had been “moisture impacted” caught fire. That blaze was quickly put out because the New York City Fire Department was still on the scene. 

The second time the lithium ion material caught fire, it was extinguished by the Nassau County fire marshal. The material had been turned over to Nassau County and was repackaged before making its way to Manorville. 

“They are a challenge,” Mr. Flynn said of the lithium ion batteries. “We get calls every single day of the week to transport and dispose of batteries.”

He said the batteries they receive are packaged and taken to a facility in Connecticut. He noted that lithium ion is most dangerous when it gets wet.

A statement issued Friday by the state DEC said that EES “has a current DEC Part 364 permit that allows the facility to transport hazardous waste, non-hazardous commercial waste, waste oil, petroleum contaminated soil, among other materials, to destination facilities identified on the permit. This would include lithium-ion batteries.”

But on Friday, the DEC added: “Today, a DEC inspection of the facility found potential violations of its permit. The investigation is ongoing and DEC will take any actions deemed appropriate to ensure the protection of public health and the environment.”

Mr. Flynn said the batteries were removed Saturday morning and taken to company in Connecticut called MNL. He expects that EES may get a violation from the DEC for not removing the batteries within 10 days, as required. However, he said, the building and property owners and business owners — for whom he was working — had asked to keep the batteries as evidence in case a lawsuit is filed. 

“In 35 years doing this,” Mr. Flynn said, “I’ve never had to deal with a loss of life.”