WHEATFIELD – Public meetings are planned in the next few days by Quasar Energy Group and opponents of its plans to offer a byproduct of food waste and sewage sludge processing for use as fertilizer by area farmers.
The opponents of the use and storage of “equate,” as Quasar calls the byproduct, will gather at 9:30 a.m. Saturday in the Shawnee Fire Company hall, 3747 Lockport Road.
Quasar, meanwhile, has called a public information meeting for 7 p.m. Monday in the Wheatfield Community Center behind Town Hall, 2800 Church Road.
Quasar won town approval in 2012 for construction of an anaerobic digester on Liberty Drive, which opened in November 2013. The apparatus converts food waste and sludge obtained from sewage treatment plants into methane gas, which can be used to generate electricity.
The byproduct of the process is equate, a nitrogen-rich, watery substance which the company wants to sell for use as fertilizer. The state Department of Environmental Conservation says 10 Niagara County farmers already have permits to use the material on their fields.
However, storing it before it is hauled to the farms has proven to be a major problem. Quasar at first sought permission to dig a 10 million-gallon lagoon in a farm field on Raymond Road in Cambria, but last summer that town said no.
Lagoon proposals didn’t fly elsewhere, either, so Quasar decided to seek permission to construct a 5 million-gallon storage tank on its Liberty Drive property.
Use of equate is regulated by the DEC and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which mandate a waiting period of as long as 38 months before food that touched ground where equate was used can be eaten by humans.
Opponents, noting that one of the original ingredients is sewage sludge that contains a wide assortment of unhealthy things, have been fighting the use of equate as possible pollution.
Using a flyer featuring a skull and crossbones, opponents have been gathering petition signatures against the storage tank and aim to spread the anti-equate word Saturday.
“We are expecting a good turnout,” said one of the organizers, Monica Daigler, in an email to The Buffalo News.
Quasar spokesman Jon Cohen said Thursday, “We asked if we could take part in that meeting and we were disinvited.”
Quasar decided to set up its own meeting, something it tried last August at the American Legion post on Ward Road, where critics loudly voiced their objections. Monday’s session in the Community Center “will not be confrontational in tone,” Cohen said. “We are engaging in an energetic community outreach.”
Meanwhile, Quasar officials were questioned closely by residents and the town Planning Board at the board’s meeting Wednesday. The board would have to approve the tank plan, but Chairman Richard Muscatello said nothing but a sketch has been submitted so far, so the board can’t act.
“They did not have a formal site plan, nor did they have an environmental impact form,” Muscatello said.
He said the board’s primary concerns about the tank project include its very size – Muscatello noted it’s almost three times bigger than the town’s giant Niagara Falls Boulevard water tank – and protections against spills from the tank.
“How will they contain the product from getting into the waterways and then to the [Niagara] river?” the chairman asked. “The impression they left with the Planning Board was they would trench it and put a berm around it.”
Cohen said the 5 million gallons “reflects the volume of material we already are handling at the site, and the number of farm acres for which we are contracted to provide equate.”