Share this article

print logo

Spill at Quasar Energy plant in Wheatfield prompts town resident’s criticism of board

WHEATFIELD – The Feb. 28 spill at the Quasar Energy Group plant on Liberty Drive gave a critic a chance to tee off at the Town Board on Monday.

Laurie Galbo said the town should be using its biosolids law to crack down on the company. “The law is as useless as this Town Board,” Galbo said. “When it comes to Quasar, this Town Board rolls over and plays dead. The developers own this Town Board.”

Supervisor Robert B. Cliffe said, “This is a year of politics. Nothing more needs to be said.”

Quasar spokesman Nathan C. Carr told the board that a pressure relief valve let “the equivalent of about 200 gallons” of fatty material out of the feedstock tank. It was not material that had been processed by the anaerobic digester.

Carr said the spill wasn’t liquid. “This was something you’d pick up with a shovel,” he said. “At no time did this spill present any risk to the public or any risk to the environment.”

The 230,000-gallon feedstock tank holds material waiting to be fed to the microbes that break it down into methane gas. The gas is used to produce electricity or compressed natural gas.

Cliffe said Carr told him on the night of the spill that the sensors in the tank indicated that it contained 70,000 gallons. In fact, it was full to overflowing.

“It was off by a big margin,” Carr said. “We have this same system in 14 other plants we operate, and we’ve never had systems fail this way.”

He said the company is planning more redundant systems, including a video camera inside the tank and installation of a window to look inside it.

Carr said the plant hasn’t received any sewage sludge in two years, which triggered questions from Councilman Larry L. Helwig.

Helwig said he and others have seen trucks from Drain Doctor – which he said is a company that cleans septic tanks – making deliveries to the digester.

Carr said, “They don’t bring that to us. They pump out grease interceptors in restaurants.”

Helwig said he wanted written assurances that the shipments didn’t mix septic sludge with grease.

Carr said Quasar will reimburse Frontier Fire Company for the materials that the fire company used in containing the spill.

John Cunningham, a resident, told the board that he went to the spill scene that night. “It didn’t smell like sewage sludge at all,” he said. “From what I saw, they handled it very well.”

That wasn’t Galbo’s take. “We have told the board Quasar is not safe, that Quasar is self-regulating, that Quasar has a poor safety record,” she said.

She and resident Julie Otto credited another resident, Monica Daigler, with discovering the spill and calling 911. Otto asked Carr whether Quasar would have self-reported the spill if the police hadn’t been called. “At the minimum, as a courtesy, we would have informed the town,” Carr replied.