by Susan Mikula Campbell
Wheatfield's concerns with Quasar and human waste sludge in its equate product is back in the news.
The town has set a public hearing for 6:30 p.m. Monday, July 28, at Town Hall, 2800 Church Road, on the local law to ban processing, recycling, storage and field application of human biosolids in town.
"I recognize that the change to our solid waste law is so important to the safety and security of Wheatfield residents that I felt it would be helpful, indeed, necessary to have another public hearing on the matter, with a presentation from our environmental consultant, Sean Carter. We'll have ample opportunity for every member of the public, as well as for Quasar representatives, to air their views before we take final action on the SEQR for these changes, and then add to our town law," said Wheatfield Supervisor Bob Cliffe. "We have attempted to be as open as possible to all parties, but a great deal of work was done by our consultant and our environmental attorney. This public hearing will bring everyone up to date, with the opportunity of making further suggestions, prior to our consideration of actions we may take in the board meeting to follow."
Cliffe noted that the current moratorium, or temporary ban, on the application of equate to farm fields or expansion of the Quasar anaerobic digestion facility on Liberty Drive remains in effect.
"If something arises during this public hearing, we would have the opportunity to go back and review it yet again. However, I believe we are now prepared to move ahead with the local protections critical to so many Wheatfield residents," Cliffe said.
The revised edition of the new law is expected to be on the town's web site by today.
Town Attorney Bob O'Toole has been working with environmental consultant Carter from Matrix Biotech and environmental attorney Steven Ricca from Jaeckle Fleischmann and Mugel, as they developed the new law. O'Toole said Carter will present a comprehensive presentation at the start of the meeting on the proposal.
"I think it will address most of the residents' concerns," he said.
Revisions to the law would include an exemption for personal use of Class A biosolids on less than 2-1/2 acres. For instance, if someone wanted to use Milorganite on their lawn, it would be permitted. The product is available at a number of garden stores in the town and county, O'Toole said.
Quasar officials have brought up the idea that advances in technology, all with a reduced level of environmental risk, might be available in the future. They also have mentioned the possibility of changing to a Class A facility instead of the current Class B.
Under the new law, Quasar could apply to the Town Board for a permit to include that technology, O'Toole said.
Julie Otto, a Wheatfield resident who has regularly attended Town Board meetings and encouraged others to fight against Quasar (see letter Page 4) said Tuesday: "This initiative has consumed a great deal of my free time, as well as that of others that oppose this. It would be wonderful if it could be resolved sooner rather than later, however, we are not willing to accept a ban that does not adequately protect the health and safety of citizens of Wheatfield and Western New York. Quasar mentions their rights as a corporation, what about the rights of the citizens of Wheatfield?"
She added that: "It is important for people to attend the meeting on Monday, even if they do not wish to speak, their presence will show our elected officials they have an interest in the outcome of this issue and their community."
Also planning to be on hand at the hearing as he has at previous town discussions on the matter, is Quasar local representative Nathan Carr, biomass account executive. Other representatives of the Ohio-based company who may be available are likely to join him.
"Quasar is committed to our two facilities in Western New York, including the one in Wheatfield," Carr said, noting that the company followed all town, state and federal regulations to build and develop its Liberty Drive plant.
Passing the proposed law would violate the company's vested right to do business, he said.
"Quasar stands by our current product and process, but we are continually looking to utilize industry-best technology and, in fact, we're working hard to pioneer the next generation technology," he said.
Quasar stores items such as restaurant oil and treated sludge containing human waste from wastewater treatment plants in a digester for about a month to create energy. What is leftover at the end of the process is called equate, which is considered a nitrogen-rich fertilizer that can be injected into farm fields.
After the public hearing on the new law, another public hearing, currently scheduled for 7:15 p.m., will be held to discuss a proposed amendment to the town code relating to the installation of grinder units on newly installed sewer lines. The hearings will be followed by the regular Town Board meeting.