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Company Salvaging Sandy-Damaged Cars Revs Up Tempers, Again

The same firm ordered by the DEC to remove cars from Enterprise Park at Calverton is facing litigation commenced by Southampton Town.

Hurricane Sandy-damaged cars continue to spark contention on the East End.

On Friday, Southampton Town attorneys went to Suffolk County Supreme Court after commencing litigation against the same car auction firm currently in hot water with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation over cars ordered to be removed from environmentally sensitive property at Enterprise Park at Calverton.

Now, cars parked without authorization on Speonk-Riverhead Road in Speonk have revved up the tempers of residents and elected officials alike.

A joint release on the issue was released on Thursday by both Southampton and Brookhaven Town Supervisors Anna Throne-Holst and Ed Romaine.

"As we work to expeditiously address the immediate and pressing needs caused by Hurricane Sandy, we must remain mindful of the potential for long term and costly consequences if proper and thorough environmental and safety precautions are not taken," the release stated. "The storage of vehicles damaged by the storm must be approached with caution due to the high risk of contamination, health and safety issues they present."

Property owners or representatives interested in storing damaged vehicles on parcels located in the Towns of Brookhaven or Southampton were urged to contact town supervisors to review eligibility requirements and to ensure the appropriate permissions are secured. 

"Mass storage of damaged vehicles absent the required approvals and permits will be not be tolerated," the release read. "Violators may be subject to substantial fines, jail time and/or loss of their certificates of occupancy."

The Southampton Town board voted to authorized enforcement action against appropriate parties related to the use and occupancy of 144 Old Country Road in Speonk, Jennifer Garvey, spokeperson for Throne-Holst said; the matter was slated to be brought before a Supreme Court judge on Friday.

According to Garvey, Copart Auctions, a car auctioning company -- and the same firm ordered by the DEC to remove cars from a 35-acre parcel at EPCAL owned by Jan Burman of the Engel Burman Group -- placed the cars on Speonk-Riverhead Road, unbeknownst to town officials.

"Vehicles damaged by Sandy were being trucked to the Speonk area beginning last week for storage on a number of vacant lots and in a large sand pit," Garvey said. "However, this is not a permitted use at these locations and poses serious environmental, public health and safety issues. The parcels are located in the Pine Barrens Compatible Growth Area, above the drinking water aquifer."

Over 3000 cars have been deposited on the site since last week, she added.

Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter said Copart Auctions, the company depositing the cars at the Speonk site was the same company ordered by the DEC to remove cars from EPCAL due to threatened endangered species; he speculated whether Copart was moving cars from EPCAL to Speonk.

Aphrodite Montalvo, spokeperson for the DEC, said Friday that as far as she can determine, there has been "no movement" of the cars ordered to be removed from the Burman property.

Garvey said town officials were apprised of the storm-ravaged cars in Speonk after a fire broke out when a car was being towed to the site.

The town, Garvey said, "had no knowledge" of the car auction company coming to Speonk.

But, once residents heard about the cars, tempers flared on Facebook as neighbors raised dire environmental concerns; the Speonk land is located in the Pine Barrens.

"It's an an active sand mine -- next stop, groundwater," Garvey said. "It shouldn't be there."

On Friday, the DEC sent out a release providing guidance for storm-damaged vehicle storage, stating that landowners are advised to seek DEC permission in environmentally areas.

The DEC stated that property owners interested in storing cars should seek all necessary approvals prior to accepting vehicles on environmentally sensitive sites, to avoid potential violations.

Areas that may require DEC permissions include regulated tidal and freshwater wetlands and adjacent areas; tidal wetlands adjacent areas include lands within 300 feet of a tidal wetland boundary; freshwater wetland adjacent areas include lands within 100 feet of a freshwater wetland boundary; and threatened or endangered species habitats including, but not limited to, grasslands bird, tiger salamander and piping plover habitats.

Other areas include regulated mining facilities and properties and regulated landfills or former landfills; registered or permitted solid waste facilities must contact the Division of Materials Management to ensure vehicle storage does not interfere with permitted site activities.

In addition, the DEC said vehicles arriving at a storage facility should be inspected upon arrival for leaking fluids, which should be remedied or contained to avoid release of fluids; fluids should not be intentionally released on the ground or to surface water. Any vehicles suggested to be leaking need to be segregated.

The DEC also the storage location should have a contingency plan which includes a description of the actions to be taken by employees in the event of a fire, spill or release of vehicle waste fluids, or the receipt of unauthorized material with the vehicles.

Walter reminded the cars ordered for removal are on a diferent parcel of EPCAL than the recent sites authorized by the town for lease to store cars damaged by Hurricane Sandy.

Recently, the Riverhead Town board voted unanimously to authorize use of a 7000 foot runway at EPCAL to temporarily store hundreds of similarly Hurricane Sandy-damaged cars.

The board voted to authorize the Riverhead Community Development Agency to enter into a license agreement for the use of the runway and taxiway areas at EPCAL for the temporary storage of cars damaged by Hurricane Sandy.

Due to flooding that led to the damage of over 200,000 cars in the New York area, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order on Nov. 6 mandating the removal of debris in regions devastated by the storm.

To that end, Insurance Auto Auctions Corp., a public salvage auto auction company, will be using the runway, taxiway, and other paved areas at EPCAL for the temporary storage of the damaged vehicles.

On Tuesday, the town board voted to authorize a similar agreement on an EPCAL parcel utilized by Skydive Long Island.

A call to the Copart legal department was not immediately returned.


Pete Scalzo December 08, 2012 at 12:59 AM
Lets give the Riverhead Town Board and the auction company credit for being in compliance with the DEC as it relates to cars being stored on land that the Town owns at EPCAL. IAA, Insurance Auto Auctions, is a huge well respected nationwide firm. They are already starting to auction off cars. 775+ cars were put up for sale today, Friday December 7th. These cars were from EPCAL and the Brookhaven Amphitheater sites.
John Pine December 08, 2012 at 03:05 AM
What's it going to take to get these cars off the land in the Pine Barrens? The DEC needs to get serious and start having Jan Burman and the people responsible for putting the cars there in jail. Water quality is already in serious decline across Suffolk County before Sandy, now, forget about it. The Pine Barrens aquifer is forever polluted.
Ralebird December 08, 2012 at 04:13 AM
"Serious decline"? And now it's worse? Stop with the alarmist BS. Do you have any evidence whatsoever that even one of these vehicles has leaked so much as an ounce of fluid into the ground, much less had it penetrate all the way to the aquifer? When the wolf really comes no one will listen.
Lisa Finn (Editor) December 08, 2012 at 02:25 PM
The DEC has stated that Riverhead Town and IAA are in compliance.
John Pine December 09, 2012 at 03:25 AM
The facts are right here: http://friendsofthebay.org/?p=1234 How do we know that fluids have been removed from the vehicles? There's alot of people being paid off to look the other way, and they thought they could cover it up, fortunately we have people who are speaking up. Jan Burman is storing the cars illegally in EPCAL and in Speonk. And the cars are still there. What will it take for those cars to be removed? The same people who have no problem with this also have no problem clearing hundreds of acres of Pine Barrens at EPCAL and for more stores in Riverhead. The facts speak for themselves. Look at our waterways and how they've changed, check out how development has destroyed the Forge River, I guess you want the Peconic to be next?
Deb Stephenson December 09, 2012 at 05:17 AM
Deb Stephenson The Peconic River has been polluted since it's head was ruined by allowing the building of Brookhaven National Lab years ago. Take a look upstream for a change. Anyone taking cars apart in garages around town?
Art Bichsel December 10, 2012 at 12:07 AM
John Pine, the article you linked to talks about development, pesticides, and fertilizers. All by products of the thousands of homes that have been built for the last 60 years. From what I have read, the cars being stored LEGALLY have very short turn arounds of 18 days or less. The illegally stored vehicles, I would think would be subject to the same turn around time. The longer they sit, the more it costs. And still yet, no one has shown proof of vehicles leaking anything.anywhere. When it rains I bet the runoff of area roads puts the pine barrens at greater risk.
Greg M December 16, 2012 at 10:23 PM
These cars being store are no different than your own vehicle being parked in your driveway or at the mall. They have not been damaged by collision, so no fluids are leaking out of them. The wiring is damaged do to salt water intrusion, leaving them inoperable. There is no cause for concern to the environment. This is a temporary situation, from an unprecedented catastrophic event. Maybe your energy is best spent helping a family that has suffered through this devastation!
S.G. February 05, 2013 at 11:16 PM
Copart seems to be having problems all over with zoning and other regulations: http://www.nj.com/mercer/index.ssf/2013/02/thousands_of_cars_damaged_duri.html http://www.nj.com/somerset/index.ssf/2012/12/multiple_vehicle_fire_overnigh.html
Neil Whalen February 06, 2013 at 03:56 PM
I love the comments of Deb Stephenson, Greg M, Art Bichsel ..."all the cars are clean and have had the fluids drained" (how do you know?) and ..."this area has been contaminated for 60 years" ...so lets just keep up polluting. My prediction is that Insurance Auto Auctions (whoever they are) will mysteriously go out of business and these leaking wrecks will be sitting on EPCAL forever. Either the Town board was paid off or they are half wits.
self storage australia February 14, 2013 at 07:19 AM
There is no cause for concern to the environment. This is a temporary situation, from an unprecedented catastrophic event. Property owners or representatives are interested in storing damaged vehicles on parcels located in the towns. <a href="http://www.koalastorage.com.au/domestic-storage/storage-units.aspx">self storage australia</a>

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