Quasar plan reminds residents of Love Canal, threatens local produce sales - The Buffalo News
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Quasar plan reminds residents of Love Canal, threatens local produce sales

Opposition to Quasar Energy Group’s plans to store a fertilizer byproduct of its waste digester and spread the material on fields appeared Monday night to harden in two Niagara County communities – the towns of Wheatfield and Lewiston.

At the Town Board meeting Monday night in Wheatfield, where the company has a request for a 5 million gallon storage tank for the fertilizer byproduct of its waste digester, residents compared the plan to spread the “equate,” as the nitrogen-rich liquid is called, to the Love Canal environmental disaster. Other residents said its use would make them less likely to buy produce from local farmers.

“By saying no to the storage tank, we’re saying no to putting that on our fields,” resident Monica Daigler said. “We’re close to where Love Canal is. We’d think we’d have more control about what goes in our water.”

“I try to go to local markets. Now I’m very hesitant,” said Deidra Sterner of Raymond Road, noting that Environmental Protection Agency rules bar consumption of food that comes in contact with ground where equate was spread for 38 months after its application. “It makes me wonder if I even want to buy crops from this area.”

“By saying no to the storage tank, my assumption is, these guys are going to leave town,” Councilman Larry L. Helwig said to applause. “If they don’t have storage capability, their business model is down the toilet.”

Quasar opened an anaerobic digester on Liberty Drive in Wheatfield last year. It processes food waste and sludge from sewage treatment plants to produce methane gas to drive a turbine to generate electricity for sale.

Quasar Energy already has approval from the Department of Environmental Conservation to inject the material at 10 sites in Niagara County.

The byproduct left behind needs to be stored before it can be used. Local towns have refused to let Quasar dig in-ground lagoons on farms, so the above-ground tank on Quasar’s property is the alternative.

Supervisor Robert B. Cliffe said the town can’t regulate the use of the material by farmers. That’s up to the state Department of Environmental Conservation. But the town Planning Board can rule on whether construction of the tank will be allowed.

Cliffe said Planning Board Chairman Richard Muscatello has sent a long list of questions to Quasar and won’t act on the tank proposal until the answers are received.

“I think it’s fairly safe to say we’re not going to allow a building that has any chance of leaking over the next 50 years,” Cliffe said.

He added that the county Sewer District has decided not to pursue Quasar’s proposal to store equate in an unused lagoon at the sewage treatment plant.

Cliffe agreed with a resident who said the town had been misled because Quasar never mentioned its need for storage of the byproduct when it obtained approval for the construction of the digester.

And in the Town of Lewiston Monday, a grassroots group that calls itself “Lewiston Against Lagoons,” called on its Town Board to enforce their codes and ensure that Quasar Energy Group be officially banned from using its fertilizer product “equate” on any town property.

“We do have laws in our town because we are environmentally sensitive in our town because of all the landfills we are dealing with,” said William Kraft, a spokesperson for Lewiston Against Lagoons,.

He noted that equate was a waste product from making electricity and, according to Town laws, such things as garbage, refuse and industrial waste and sludge cannot be dumped or injected.

“You can’t inject anything,” Kraft told the Town Board Monday night.

He said their group will be out in force at the next board meeting to make sure that everyone is aware of the laws and adhere to them.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com and nfischer@buffnews.com

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