Firefighters and investigators at the scene of a June 20 fatal fire in NYC that authorities say started at an e-bike shop and spread to upper-floor apartments. Photo: Bebeto Matthews/AP

Lithium ion batteries from an e-bike shop that caught fire and led to the death of four people in New York City were transported and have been temporarily stored by a Manorville environmental contracting and remediation company.

Eastern Environmental Solutions, a company with headquarters on Line Road in Manorville, was hired to remove batteries in the shop that caught fire on June 20, the company’s president, Michael Flynn, said in a phone interview today. The company is permitted by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation to transport the batteries and has 10 days from the pickup of the waste to transport it to the designated disposal facility. 

“Eastern was initially contacted and brought in to the facility that we did this work at by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection. They put us in contact with a building owner and the building owner’s insurance company to remove the lithium ion batteries from the building,” Flynn said.

The batteries were removed and arrived in Manorville in two separate shipments: on Saturday, June 24 and Friday, June 30. Damaged batteries “reflashed” and caught on fire twice on June 24 en route and required an escort by the Nassau County Fire Marshal to the Manorville site, according to Flynn and town officials.

Around 1,000 pounds of batteries are in Manorville, stored in drums located on permitted transportation trucks, Flynn said. “99%” of the batteries in Eastern Environmental’s possession were not damaged in the fire, he said. All are being stored in the appropriate drums with a pressure relief plug required by the U.S. DOT, he said.

“I completely understand the public’s concern. But in no way shape or form is the public in any jeopardy whatsoever with the batteries that are here,” Flynn said.

Manorville Fire Department Chief Joe Danowski said there have been no fire calls to the Eastern Environmental site since the batteries first arrived.

After consulting with the DEC and Riverhead Fire Marshal — which both started investigations into the situation — Eastern Environmental will transport the batteries to their final destination in the next 24-48 hours, Flynn said.

“Our concern was that there is a fire concern,” Fire Marshal Andrew Smith said. “I think the way they’re being stored it’s not that big of a deal. We are trying to have them removed from our town, though. We don’t necessarily want the storage of damaged lithium ion batteries.”

Flynn also applied for a permit to store hazardous material at the fire marshal office’s request, Smith said.

In a statement, a spokesperson from the Department of Environmental Conservation said the inspection of the site found “potential violations of [Eastern Environmental’s] permit.”

“The investigation is ongoing and DEC will take any actions deemed appropriate to ensure the protection of public health and the environment,” the statement said.

Eastern Environmental is not a disposal or storage company for waste, Flynn said, and was only holding on to the batteries because they thought they were legally obligated to. 

“The mistake that was made this time is that we placed the word ‘evidence’ ahead of everything else,” he said. “We honestly thought, under the law, that we had to safeguard and protect it or that if a subpoena was given, which they said it might possibly be —  we’re still waiting to find that out — if you dispose of someone’s evidence, are you then in contempt?” he said.

“And that’s the first time I’ve ever been in this situation — 35 years — but what do you do? You had loss of life at a facility that you had to respond to and you’re holding on to the one item that caused four people to die,” Flynn said. “So do you discard that? There’s something to be said. And we got caught in the middle of trying to do the right thing for everybody.”

“At this point, we’ve decided that evidence or not, it’s going to be disposed of,” Flynn said. “And unless there’s a subpoena physically in hand, it’s going.”

Lithium ion batteries are a universal waste, a category of hazardous waste regulated differently than other hazardous waste, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Universal waste does not require a hazardous waste manifest — the system that tracks hazardous waste from the time it leaves the generator facility where it was produced to an off-site waste management facility — and is not technically counted as a hazardous waste under U.S. DOT regulations.

Barbara Blass of Jamesport brought her concerns to the Riverhead Town Board last night. 

“There is no such authorized receiving site in Manorville, or anywhere else in the town of Riverhead, or anywhere on Long Island for that matter, because we are over our sole source aquifer,” Blass said. “So can somebody please tell me what’s happening with this hazardous waste and why it was allowed to be dumped in our town?”

Council Member Bob Kern and Police Chief David Hegermiller assured Blass the fire marshal was investigating the incident. 

“And if it’s not permitted here, it will be taken right out,” Hegermiller said.

The damaged batteries being transported to Manorville were offhandedly mentioned last week during a work session discussion with members of the fire marshal’s office about the proposed local regulation of lithium ion battery sales within the town. 

Lithium batteries are found in virtually every rechargeable electronic device, from cell phones and computers to transportation devices like e-bikes and electric vehicles. Rare and unlikely battery failures, which are often caused by design defects or damage to the battery, can result in extreme heat and cause a fire or explosion, according to the National Fire Protection Association. 

A total of 13 people have died in fires attributed to lithium ion battery failures in New York City this year, according to the New York Times. New York City has put in place new laws to try to prevent the purchase and misuse of faulty and damaged batteries, as well as develop new fire protections against battery fires.

Editor’s Note: This article was amended to include a statement received from the Department of Environmental Conservation after initial publication and to clarify language.

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Alek Lewis is a lifelong Riverhead resident and a 2021 graduate of Stony Brook University’s School of Communication and Journalism. Previously, he served as news editor of Stony Brook’s student newspaper, The Statesman, and was a member of the campus’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Email: