by Susan Mikula Campbell
Residents continued to call on the Wheatfield Town Board on Monday to block Quasar Energy Group's plans to build a storage building at its Liberty Drive facility for equate.
Some of those speaking at the meeting also questioned whether anything could be done to block application of equate to farmers' fields.
Meanwhile, at the Lewiston Town Board meeting (see related story on Page 3), it was revealed that one of the sites approved for application of equate onto the land is in Lewiston, across from the Niagara-Wheatfield School District campus.
The Ohio-based Quasar is an anaerobic digestion facility. To create methane gas, it processes organic waste, such as oils, foods and leftover sludge from sewage treatment plants that otherwise would go to landfills. What is left over after processing at the Quasar facility is called equate and is considered a nitrogen-rich fertilizer, rather than chemicals, for farmers' fields. Equate cannot be applied year-round, so a storage building, or in some cases a lagoon, is necessary to hold it until it can be applied.
Citing the area's hazardous waste history, such as Love Canal and the Niagara Falls Storage Site, residents in a number of Niagara County towns are suspicious of equate and question whether it could release pathogens from the sewage sludge.
Wheatfield Supervisor Bob Cliffe on Monday said that the request for a storage building on the Liberty Drive property still has to go back to the Town Planning Board, which won't act until it gets a response to a detailed list of questions (including residents' questions) sent to the company by chairman Richard Muscatello.
Cliffe also promised to keep residents informed about any potential action and meetings on Quasar on the town's website and via the media well before it comes before the Town Board for a vote.
The State Department of Environmental Conservation, not the town, regulates the use of equate as fertilizer by farmers, he noted.
When asked if Quasar got its foot in the door to build a digester in Wheatfield by not fully revealing what their needs were going to be (e.g. a storage building or lagoon), Cliffe said, "That would be a fair statement."
After learning about a possible lagoon off Lockport Road, Cliffe and Councilman Art Gerbec traveled to Wooster, Ohio, to be shown Quasar's operation there and "to smell and see it for ourselves." Town officials also have spent a lot of time talking with DEC officials. This information can be found on the town's website.
Residents remain suspicious of Quasar and some flatly said they would like to see the company close and leave.
Monica Daigler presented a petition against Quasar signed by more than 200 "outraged" Wheatfield Lakes-area parents and promised there would be more signatures to come.
Several residents mentioned that they would stop buying produce from all local farms if equate was used on area land. Others noted finding on the Internet news of environmental violations at a Quasar-related facility in Pittsfield Township in Ohio and objections to odors by residents near Quasar's Ohio French Creek facility. Noting the Wheatfield facility's nearness to a creek and to the Love Canal, those worried about seepage from the proposed storage tank wondered if a 500,000-gallon storage tank, rather than a 5 million gallon tank, would be a better option.
"I'm sure that when Hooker Chemical buried chemicals in Love Canal, they didn't think it was that bad," said a Wheatfield Lakes resident. "There is no price to put on our children's future in this area."
In other matters:
•The Town Board also held a lengthy public hearing on rezoning for Wheatfield Lakes Villas patio homes requested by Ryan Homes. The hearing was sometimes loud with different residents, homeowners associations, management representative and Ryan leaders offering differing opinions of property lines and changes in green space regulations to allow residents to put up fences.
Ryan Homes has reconfigured its site plan for 66 new patio homes in order to meet the town's requirement for 25 percent green space.
One woman complained that, when she bought her home, she was told by Ryan Homes there would be no problem putting in a pool, but in actuality, due to green space regulations and issues over who owns the property behind the house, she can't put up a 10-foot deck, let alone a pool.
Cliffe and Town Board members agreed they were still uncomfortable with making a rezoning decision and asked for more information, delaying action until April.