By Lauren Zaepfel
Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets of the State of New York Richard A. Ball has ordered the Town of Wheatfield to allow Milleville Brothers Farms to apply Quasar Energy Group's Equate (a form of biosolids) to its farmland.
This order comes after the Town of Wheatfield established its local biosolids law in 2014, which states the application of "biosolids, digestate and/or other sludges derived from municipal wastewater" is prohibited on town property.
Since then, Ag. and Markets has ruled the law as "unreasonably restrictive" after David Milleville, owner of Milleville Brothers Farms, requested the department review the town's law, as he sought to use Equate for crop production.
In response, the town has provided documentation and information from environmental consultant Matrix Environmental Technologies to support its law, arguing the use of biosolids is unsafe.
Residents have expressed health and safety concerns about the use of biosolids in the town at several Town Board meetings, also.
However, Ag. and Markets has again determined the law "unreasonably restricts the Milleville Brothers farm operation and that the Town failed to demonstrate that the public health or safety is threatened by the operation's land application of Equate" on land used for growing crops."
Ball wrote, "Although given the opportunity to do so, the Town of Wheatfield did not provide the Department with any correspondence, documentation or other information showing any public health or safety threat relating to the land application of biosolids by the farm operation. The town submitted articles referencing studies evaluating impacts under dissimilar circumstances (e.g., impacts to animals grazing on land where biosolids were surface-applied)."
He further stated, "Milleville Brothers proposes to inject biosolids for crop production in compliance with DEC and EPA requirements and will not apply the biosolids by disking into the soil. Injection reduces the potential for odor and runoff as well as minimizes the risk of bioaerosols leaving the application site. There will be no animals grazing on the land."
Ball also said the New York State Department of Health has concluded, "additional health studies are not necessary." Moreover, the Environmental Protection Agency, "which continually researches and assesses biosolids sources, has concluded that the risk potential associated with 'unregulated contaminants' is low."
In response to Ball's letter, Town of Wheatfield Supervisor Robert B. Cliffe wrote in an email that he hoped Ag. and Markets would "accept our law as additional protection for our residents."
When asked what he thought this means for the town and it's residents, Cliffe said, "This is yet to be determined. We believe that we have very good grounds for this law. There are a lot of good reasons for having home rule; this is one of them."
The town has 10 business days to respond on whether it will accept the order from Ag. and Markets.
"There are no plans for an emergency meeting (of the Town Board)," Cliffe said. "Our attorney is discussing this with our outside counsel to determine any next steps."