ROYALTON – The nitrogen-rich byproduct from a controversial anaerobic digestion plant in Wheatfield has been spread as fertilizer on a farm field in Royalton, a spokesman for Quasar Energy Group confirmed this week.
The material, which the company calls “equate,” was applied to a field at Lincoln Avenue Extension and Hollenbeck Road on Dec. 18, last Saturday and Monday, spokesman Nathan C. Carr confirmed. He declined to identify the farmer who owns the site, but said the field is not owned by the Milleville Brothers Farm of Wheatfield, which had planned to obtain equate for use on several of its fields around the county.
The information about the application was first presented by Wheatfield activist Julie Otto at Monday’s Wheatfield Town Board meeting.
Equate, the byproduct of digestion of organic waste by microbes, has been controversial because the plant on Liberty Drive in Wheatfield takes sludge from sewage treatment plants in addition to food waste from restaurants.
The main purpose of the process is to turn the waste into methane gas that can be used to generate electricity or produce compressed natural gas. Quasar has a similar plant in West Seneca. Equate, also known as biosolids, is the watery material left over after the digestion process.
Wheatfield has banned the use of such biosolids on its fields, a law Quasar is challenging in court. Other towns have passed restrictions, but Royalton is not among them, Town Clerk Marie L. Little confirmed.
Carr said the equate spread in Royalton is “exceptional quality,” Class A material, considered safer than the Class B byproduct the plant originally was designed to create. He said the plant has not taken any sewage sludge in more than a year, so the byproduct sitting in the tank because of the difficulty in disposing of it has been exposed far more than normal to the microbes, and thus is freer of potential pathogens than it otherwise would have been.
State Supreme Court Justice Frank Caruso heard arguments in the lawsuit over the Wheatfield biosolids ban in late June, but has yet to render a decision on whether the law exceeds the town’s legal authority. The state Environmental Conservation and Agriculture and Markets departments have endorsed the use of biosolids as fertilizer as safe and effective, but opponents say it could contain remnants of human waste or anything else that someone might flush down a toilet.