by Susan Mikula Campbell
Wheatfield Supervisor Bob Cliffe, Councilman Art Gerbec and Planning Board Chairman Richard Muscatello traveled last Saturday to Wooster, Ohio, to see firsthand Quasar Energy Group's operation.
The Ohio-based company has built new anaerobic digestion plants at 2175 Liberty Drive in Wheatfield as well as in West Seneca to produce energy from organic waste that otherwise might be sent to landfills. Currently, the company is looking for nearby locations on farms to build covered ponds to store what it calls "equate," nitrogen-rich material left over from the process to be used as fertilizer.
A contingent of town residents attended Monday's Town Board meeting to ask that all caution be used in dealing with the equate storage ponds, which weren't mentioned when Quasar first presented its plans to the town and construction of the plant was approved.
Cliffe, Gerbec and Muscatello have already compiled a list of 13 more questions based on the trip that they want Quasar to answer, especially regarding waiting periods and government regulations regarding equate.
"We're not turning our backs on you folks," promised Gerbec.
Cliffe said equate might benefit growers, but he is concerned about effect on water.
Cliffe said his group's trip included touring a Quasar plant, and seeing a storage lagoon at a sewage treatment plant.
They also talked with Ohio farmers who seem very happy with the fertilizer. "They save about $100 per acre per year," Cliffe said. "If you have a 1,000-acre farm, you're saving a lot of money."
He added that Ohio requires farmers to have a 30-foot buffer between fields where the fertilizer has been applied and waterways.
Wheatfield resident Edele Wurl advised the Town Board to "talk to somebody who isn't making money on the deal."
She also distributed copies of an article by Rochester Institute of Technology professor Caroline Snyder that indicated, "serious illnesses, including deaths and adverse environmental impacts, have been linked to land application of sewage sludge."
Town officials agreed that it would be good to have a representative from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency meet with the board and residents to discuss Quasar's plans.
In other matters:
•Cliffe said he and budget director Ed Mongold intend to have the town's tentative budget to the town clerk and board members by Sept. 30.
•Trick-or-treating hours in the town were set for 5 to 8 p.m. Oct. 31.
•Residents were reminded that the Oct. 2 Farmers Market from 4 to 6 p.m. outside Town Hall will feature Wheatfield's Rob and Carol Allen performing magic and balloon art.
•The next regular meeting of the Town Board will begin at 7:15 p.m. Monday, Oct. 7, with a public hearing on rezoning of a 17-acre parcel on Ward Road from a combination of R-2 residential and A-R farmland to entirely R-2 for a 56-unit housing complex. The parcel is located east of where Niagara Road comes into Ward Road.
The Oct. 7 meeting also will feature details on the town's Halloween party on Oct. 26.