by Susan Mikula Campbell
Wheatfield residents were not pleased, and they let the Town Board know it in a lengthy meeting Monday.
The majority of the crowd was there to continue a quest from previous meetings to find a way to block Quasar from distributing its equate product as fertilizer for farmers' fields.
A smaller group complained about noise from a junkyard that was making them prisoners in their own homes.
In the Quasar matter, the board approved a public hearing for 7 p.m. April 28 on a proposed law to establish a six-month moratorium on the disposal and storage of sludge, sewage sludge, septic waste and derivative products within Wheatfield, pending revision of the town's solid waste and recycling law.
Supervisor Bob Cliffe told residents that he has done extensive reading and research from the very beginning when the Ohio-based Quasar asked to build its anaerobic digestion facility on Liberty Drive to create methane gas from waste that would otherwise go to landfills. Equate is what is leftover after digestion. Quasar is currently seeking to build a 5 million gallon equate storage tank on its Liberty Drive property.
"I don't work for Quasar, I work for you," Cliffe told residents at the meeting.
He said the moratorium would give the town and its residents time to get all questions answered. He suggested an independent third party is needed to provide answers to the many questions about equate and its storage and application as farm fertilizer.
Quasar has already returned its answers to questions presented by the board and residents at previous meetings to Planning Board Chairman Richard Muscatello, Cliffe said.
The main objection by residents seems to be the use of leftover human sewage from sewer treatment plants in the digestion process. They are worried about pathogens from sewage sludge possibly showing up in equate used for fertilizer and affecting farmlands, crops and nearby neighborhoods. They also are concerned about possible seepage from the plant to the Niagara River.
Monica Daigler, representing the Wheatfield Lakes area, presented 150 more signatures to her petition against Quasar. Last meeting, she brought in 200 signatures.
Resident Helene Petrakis brought in 236 signatures on her petition and said people she approached were eager to sign.
"The general consensus is Western New York, Niagara County has had enough toxic waste in our community," she said.
William Kraft of Lewiston's Residents Against Lagoons attended the meeting to support the Wheatfield residents. He said sewage can come from places like hospitals and mortuaries to treatment plants - "You have no control over what people are putting into the waste stream."
He said Lewiston many years ago wrote tough laws that he expects will prevent Quasar from starting up equate application lagoons in his town.
"You can shut them down," he said. "You can prevent the spreading and use of this (equate) in your town."
Fred Mallone led a group of residents who live near the junkyard at Mapleton and Townline roads in asking that the town do something about the noise. Yes, the junkyard existed before their homes were built, but now the junkyard is using a dyno machine on motors that is so loud it shakes the windows, he said.
"The junkyard was there, not the noise," he said, noting that a test of the noise reveals it is over town code. "If I had an unregistered vehicle next to my house, somebody would be knocking on my door."
He also played a recording of the noise for the board.
Allen Richards Jr. spoke on behalf of his father-in-law John Grabowski, longtime nearby resident of the junkyard. He said his father-in-law has come home to find his wife locked inside crying because of the noise.
"It is affecting quality of life," he said. "I genuinely feel sorry for anybody who lives within a quarter of a mile of it. The noise is unbearable."
Cliffe agreed and asked that Building Inspector Mike Klock and town constables look into the matter. He visited the Mallone home on Sunday and said the loud, droning of the machine at the junkyard is "like sitting at the Lancaster Speedway during speed trials."
In other matters:
•Councilman Larry Helwig announced that the board has been notified by Budget Director Ed Mongold that the town's revenues exceeded expenses in 2013 for the fourth year in a row.
Cliffe said his policy, which is being followed by department heads and employees, has been not to spend all the money allotted in the budget. In addition, increases in sales tax revenues have enabled the town to avoid adding taxes and still provide services residents want, he said.
•Klock reported that fire and safety inspections are beginning at town businesses. "Even businesses that have never seen us are going to start seeing us," the new building inspector said.
•Recreation Director Mike Ranalli noted that the next Wheatfield Senior Dance will be at 4 p.m. April 5 at the Community Center. Sign-up is required. Call Gail at 694-8504. In addition, the town's annual Easter party is set for 10 a.m. to noon April 12.
•Town Clerk Kathleen Harrington-McDonell reminded residents that the last date before late taxes are turned over to the county is March 31.
•The next regular Town Board meeting will be at 7:30 p.m. April 14.