Warwick school district gets update on summer battery fire

The fire burned for several days in Warwick at two different lithium-ion battery facilities.

Veronica Jean Seltzer

Oct 6, 2023, 12:52 AM

Updated 197 days ago

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For the first time, people in Warwick are hearing from the company involved in a summer fire on school property.
News 12 has learned the official cause of that fire is - as expected - water getting into the system.
Fires happened at two different Warwick sites in June. The one discussed Thursday was on school district property.
The facilities are meant to help keep energy costs low and reliability high. They're expected to only grow because the state is encouraging their use as part of sustainability efforts.
Previous Warwick fire coverage:
A representative from owner/operator Convergent says there was a defect with the product, which it doesn't manufacture. It comes from a company called Powan.
The board asked the Convergent representative many questions including why the site has to be where it is and whether it has to use Powan products.
Parents at the meeting I spoke to weren't satisfied with what they heard, especially the possibility that more facilities could eventually be added.
"I'm glad the school board was asking questions, but disappointed in the fact of the questions they really didn't ask," Dawn D'Amico said.
She'd like to hear more about whether the water will be tested and what killed trees nearby.
"We've waited so long for answers, and he didn't really have them. He didn't write not one thing down. No concerns. Nothing," Stephanie Kowalski said.
"We want to ensure you we take these events very seriously. This was the first fire we experienced in our company's 12-year history," Convergent representative Frank Genova said in his remarks to the board.
He says there's a lot of work still to be done. That includes testing and manufacturing, which he says the company wants to get more involved in. He says it's not likely Powan will have a replacement solution before the second half of 2024.
Air quality also came up at the meeting with the district assuring the crowd that all district property and buses were thoroughly cleaned. Orange County says a hazmat crews set up air monitoring to identify toxins, but found everything within normal levels. 
As for the facilities' future, the county says they're under Warwick's purview. Town Supervisor Michael Sweeton says there's still more to learn about what happened before passing judgement on what comes next. 
Convergent representative Frank Genova told the school board there's still more work to be done, including testing and manufacturing, which he says the company wants to get more involved in. He says it's not likely Powan will have a replacement solution before the second half of 2024, meaning the sites will likely remain offline at least until then.


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