Westchester County will create dedicated safe disposal opportunities for the public and fire personnel, point of sale warnings, and work to educate all on the dangers of these increasingly prevalent batteries creating fire disasters

Watch a short video on the County’s Lithium-Ion Battery Safety Program HERE.

Watch the full press conference HERE.

In response to growing concerns over the potential hazards associated with lithium-ion batteries, Westchester County Executive George Latimer and the County’s Department of Emergency Services, Department of Environmental Facilities and Department of Consumer Protection have taken proactive measures to ensure the safety of residents.

Westchester County has already experienced lithium-ion battery fires with e-bikes, e-scooters, hover boards, laptops, a lawnmower and a drone. In New York City, there have been several fires which have resulted in fatalities.

Latimer said: “Lithium-ion battery fires can be exceptionally difficult to control. These fires can result in a chemical reaction known as ‘thermal runaway’ which occurs when heat builds up faster than it can be dissipated. This causes a very rapidly expanding fire, as well as the release of toxic gases, and a possible explosion. In Westchester, we are committed to ensuring the safety of our residents and those who protect from these deadly fires.”

Lithium-ion batteries, commonly found in electronic devices and vehicles, pose significant risks if mishandled or improperly disposed of. Even when lithium-ion battery fires appear to be out, the batteries can reignite days later due to the energy that remains trapped inside the damaged battery cells. Recognizing the urgency to address these dangers, Latimer has initiated a comprehensive approach to tackle this issue head-on.

Department of Emergency Services Deputy Commissioner Susan Spear said: “Lithium-Ion Batteries are now prevalent in devices we use every day. They are a powerful source of energy, but can also cause great harm if used improperly. Therefore, Westchester County has created a safety program to make sure our residents can benefit from the use of such devices, while knowing how to protect themselves and their families from dangerous fires and toxic gases. This safety program combines legislation, disposal options, education, and firefighter training.”

Westchester’s new comprehensive Lithium-Ion Battery Safety Program includes:

  • Proposed legislation requiring point of sale warnings and safety information,
  • Requirements that devices meet UL safety standards, and
  • Prohibition on the sale of re-assembled or damaged batteries.

The Program also includes public education, Firefighter training, and disposal options for damaged and old batteries.

The City of New Rochelle has had at least five such Lithium-Ion Battery fire events, in locations ranging from the back of a garbage truck, to the loading dock of Home Depot, to multi-family apartment buildings. The worst fire, in a multi-family building two blocks from City Hall, resulted in the residents of the entire building being displaced for weeks.

In a letter written to Latimer, City of New Rochelle Department of Fire Commssioner, Chief of Department and Chair of the County’s Fire Advisory Board Andrew J. Sandor said: “I appreciate the County taking action to help prevent Lithium-Ion Battery related fires. The proposed County Legislation, which requires safety standards for e-bike and other mobility devices sold within the County, prohibits the use or sale of reassembled or reconditioned batterires, requires point of sale warning notices, and develops a public education and outreach campaign, will go a long way toward alleviating the fire risk caused by these batteries in our community.”

Residents can bring lithium-ion batteries, damaged or otherwise ready for disposal to the H-MRF in Valhalla. (Residents outside the Refuse Disposal District (Bedford, Lewisboro, New Castle, North Castle, North Salem, Pound Ridge and Somers), may incur a fee associated with handling and/or disposal.) New York State also offers an extended producer responsibility program for non-mobility batteries under 25 lbs. administered by Call2Recycle. Residents can contact Call2 Recycle to find a drop-off location near them.

Some manufacturers handle lithium-ion battery disposal directly. Residents may consider contacting the manufacturer of the battery or product for safe disposal options.

Certain brands of lithium-ion batteries used for e-bikes can be brought to a local e-bike retailer for handling.

Department of Environmental Facilities Commissioner Vincent Kopicki said: “State law prohibits disposal of rechargeable batteries, including lithium-ion, in household hazardous waste. Disposing of lithium-ion batteries in the trash can result in fires that endanger collection crews and processing facility workers. DEF provides safe and convenient disposal of lithium-ion batteries at the H-MRF. With this expanded program, DEF will coordinate with Fire Departments so they can remove damaged batteries for residents who have suffered a fire event, and bring the damaged battery to a secure location.”

Other tips for residents include:

  • When transporting lithium-ion batteries that are damaged, residents should take care to package them for transport and may place them in sand or kitty litter.
  • Extra-large lithium-ion batteries, such as those used for electric vehicles, are not accepted at the H-MRF. Residents should contact the manufacturer for safe disposal options of these batteries.
  • Residents should contact the local fire department if there is a thermal event (sparking or fire) from a lithium-ion battery. Fire departments are trained to respond to these events and secure the battery to prevent re-ignition of the battery.

This multifaceted fire safety and prevention program focusses on the safe use, charging, storage, and disposal of lithium ion batteries. It is designed to inform the public about the potential dangers of lithium ion batteries, as well as to help ensure the safe handling and use of such batteries and related devices.  This will help protect the public as well as the firefighters who respond to these dangerous fires.

County Director of Consumer Protection Jim Maisano said: “The Consumer Protection Department will be enforcing this proposed new point-of-sale legislation and when we find violations in stores, a ticket will be written with fines of up to $1,000 per incident.”