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Riverhead civic groups cite environmental concerns, press DEC to weigh in on drag racing events at EPCAL

The entrance to the Town of Riverhead's Enterprise

The entrance to the Town of Riverhead's Enterprise Park at Calverton, located on the site of the former Grumman plant off Route 25 in Calverton, is shown in September 2016. Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

A Riverhead watchdog group has asked the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to investigate whether two scheduled drag racing events at the Enterprise Park at Calverton will harm the surrounding environment.

EPCAL Watch, a coalition of Riverhead civic organizations and community activists, sent a letter to the DEC dated June 10 asking the department to take a closer look at the "Race Track Not Street" and "Skrambul" racing events, scheduled, respectively, for August and September.

The Riverhead Town Board voted earlier this month to approve special-event applications for both races. However, civic groups and residents living near the property oppose those events due to concerns they may cause noise for nearby homeowners and generate pollution at EPCAL’s environmentally sensitive areas.

The letter, signed by Rex Farr, EPCAL Watch’s coordinator, asked the DEC to "move swiftly" and "require any and all necessary permits, and any mitigation that will be needed to minimize environmental harm that will inevitably result from the events as proposed."

Farr told Newsday that the group feels the town has underestimated how many people the drag racing events could attract, and moving them to the late summer "doesn’t really solve" how to protect the property’s hundreds of acres of environmentally sensitive areas.

"In the bigger picture with the event, with the parking and contamination with fluids on the runway and it potentially going into the groundwater…the DEC has to step up," Farr said. "So we’re going right to them and make our case known."

The DEC issued Newsday a statement on June 17 saying the agency is aware of the letter and is "continuing to work directly with the town of Riverhead to ensure the protection of the habitats and the species that depend on this unique area."

Councilman Ken Rothwell, the town board’s liaison on the matter, said Riverhead officials previously asked sponsors of both events to address noise concerns and DEC concerns on security so event attendees disturb neither the grasslands nor EPCAL site’s recreational trail. Both sponsors agreed to address those concerns, Rothwell said.

In addition, Rothwell said neither event sponsor will use solvents or resins on the track, and traffic control plans must be approved beforehand.

"It is an opportunity to make use of this idle, underdeveloped asset and provide some small measure of return, benefit and enjoyment to our residents," Rothwell said. "The town is confident that Planning, the town attorney, police and the fire marshal will make certain every detail for protection of the environment and the event, spectators and participants are addressed so it is a positive experience."

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