Officials: solar farm fire is contained; neighbors worry about contamination

Published: Jul. 31, 2023 at 3:14 PM EDT
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TOWN OF LYME, New York (WWNY) - Officials say the fire at the solar farm in the town of Lyme was contained late Sunday morning.

Four lithium battery storage trailers caught fire at the Convergent Energy solar farm on County Route 179 on Thursday afternoon.

Local fire departments had been pouring water on trailers since the fire broke out. They ended water operations at around 11 a.m. Sunday.

Officials said Monday that officials are continuing to monitor temperatures in the damaged equipment and air quality around the area.

Once the temperatures come down, solar company Convergent Energy will start its investigation and the state Department of Environmental Conservation will do an environmental review.

“There needs to be strong indication regarding lithium and how it’s used in our community across the board. It’s in your back pocket, it’s in your car, it’s everywhere. We need to learn how to fight it best, and how we’re going to bring it into our communities,” said Lyme Town Supervisor Terry Countryman.

Local officials said last week that there were no toxic byproducts in the air, and there was no indication of any groundwater or runoff contamination that would pose health risks.

But, neighbors in the area are concerned specifically about their drinking water.

John Rook recorded the aftermath on Saturday.

“I don’t know if you can hear it, but that’s the culvert pipe dumping into my property, and that is the fire truck across the road, you can hear it. There’s the water. You can hear the dogs in there. I don’t know how I’m supposed to keep them out of the water, or drink it, but it’s the runoff from across the street,” he said as he recorded.

He’s worried about the water running onto his property and about it seeping into his drinking well water.

Many people along Rockledge Drive have wells, like Susan Nichols.

“We decided we’re going to get our wells tested. All we heard was the air quality, nothing about the water situation,” she said.

Nichols and neighbors plan to get their water tested, but first need to know what metals are in the lithium battery trailers that caught fire. So far, Nichols hasn’t been able to learn that information from officials on the scene and is frustrated.

“I’m all for green energy, but you regulate business to the hill and these need to be regulated also,” she said.

Meanwhile, Rook, who declined to go on camera, says, “Nothing scares me until you wash heavy metals into my groundwater due to lack of proper training and equipment to handle these things as they build them at a record-breaking speed all over our lands. Green is good but not at the cost of citizen and property safety.”

As the DEC does an environmental review, it’ll include testing the water. They do say they’ve been testing that air quality and the readings have been at normal levels since the fire started Thursday.