Riverhead will allow the firm already storing 30,000 cars on two town-owned runways at Enterprise Park in Calverton to place more vehicles on taxiways and other paved areas at the former Grumman aircraft plant.
The town board, in a 4-0 vote Thursday, extended its contract with Insurance Auto Auctions Corp., of Westchester, Ill. The action drew immediate criticism from Long Island Pine Barrens Society executive director Richard Amper, who has said the cars at the town-owned Enterprise Park in Calverton represent a threat to drinking water.
There is no way of knowing what kinds of fluids are leaking from the vehicles and would be washed into the ground when it rains, Amper said. "I guess that's to ensure groundwater contamination, in the event the first 30,000 cars weren't sufficient."
Town Supervisor Sean Walter said there are 100 people working at EPCAL every day cleaning up cars and moving them out. "There's no difference between cars parked at EPCAL and cars parked at the Smith Haven Mall."
The firm agreed to pay the town $3,200 per month for every acre used to store vehicles damaged by superstorm Sandy, and to indemnify the town from any damage caused by the vehicle storage.
In turn, the town board, meeting in its role as Riverhead's Industrial Development Agency, declared the new storage agreement to be a "type 1" action, which would have no significant impact on the environment and would not need a full environmental review under the State Environmental Quality Review Act.
State environmental officials are monitoring the situation, but have so far taken no action on cars stored on the runway. The State Department of Environmental Conservation has started legal action against the owners of a sand mine in Southampton Town, where cars have been stored on the ground, rather than impermeable concrete.
The town's contract with Insurance Auto Auctions calls for Riverhead to be reimbursed for any damage caused by the cars. "That's fine, but who will reimburse the people who drink the water?" Amper asked.
The 2,900-acre EPCAL property -- given to Riverhead by the federal government for new industrial development after the Grumman plant closed in 1996 -- includes land in the central pine barrens region, designated by the state for groundwater recharge.
In other action at its last meeting of the year, the town board designated the four new ballfields to open next spring in another part of the EPCAL site as Veterans Memorial Park.