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Water authority: Proposed Yaphank car storage yard could harm wells

A public notice sign announces a hearing will

A public notice sign announces a hearing will be held on a proposal to open an auto storage yard in Yaphank.

Yaphank residents and Suffolk County Water Authority officials say a proposed automobile storage yard on a wooded property near the Long Island Expressway could threaten groundwater supplies in nearby residential neighborhoods.

NMF Holdings of Ocean Ridge, Florida, wants to build the facility — which would hold thousands of vehicles damaged in collisions — on a 35.67-acre site zoned for industrial uses on the west side of Sills Road, south of the expressway. The firm is seeking Brookhaven Town Planning Board approval of a site plan and special permit for vehicle storage with improvements such as pavement, drainage, landscaping, fencing and buffers.

The planning board has scheduled a hearing on the matter for 4 p.m. Monday at Brookhaven Town Hall in Farmingville.

NMF Holdings officials could not be reached for comment. Harras Bloom and Archer, the Melville law firm representing the company, did not return phone calls. 

In a Nov. 7 letter to town planners, Suffolk water authority chief executive Jeffrey W. Szabo said he had "very serious concerns" that public wells near the site could be harmed by leaks of hydraulic fluids, battery acid and other toxic material from damaged vehicles. He said the project should be rejected.

"We are now of the opinion that this use has no business in such close proximity to one of our well fields," Szabo wrote. "The risks are simply too great."

Yaphank residents and civic leaders said they oppose the project, citing concerns about water quality, noise and traffic.

“I have Suffolk County water, this is my well," Regine Nickel, who lives about a half-mile from the site, said in an interview. "This is of massive concern to me. ... Once something gets into the water, you will not be able to get it out.”

Yaphank Taxpayers and Civic Association president Linda Petersen said she worries about the project's impact on the aquifer.

“Our groundwater is at stake," she said. “All these things seem really frightening to me.” 

Brookhaven Town Councilman Michael Loguercio said NMF Holdings plans to store vehicles at the site until they are sold at auction. He said the property is too near the environmentally sensitive Carmans River. 

“I don’t think it’s a good fit for the community. I don’t think it’s a good fit environmentally,” he said.

Mel Evans, a Medford resident who lives near the site, thinks the neighborhood's water supply would be severely harmed if the project is approved.

“That’s the big issue. That’s besides traffic [and] noise pollution from the trucks backing up with the beep, beep, beep of the trucks backing up,” Evans said. “We’re frankly surprised the Brookhaven planning board would consider this project at this location.”

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