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5 million-gallon storage tank sought for Wheatfield waste-digestion project

WHEATFIELD – Quasar Energy Group has proposed a 5 million-gallon storage tank at its Liberty Drive plant to store the liquid fertilizer byproduct that its waste-digestion project produces.

Monday, the Town Board scheduled a public information meeting for 7 p.m. Feb. 24 on Quasar’s proposal to build the aboveground tank.

Quasar also is asking for an open lagoon at the county Sewer District plant on Liberty Drive, Supervisor Robert B. Cliffe said. “That is in the very early stages,” he said.

Quasar’s process uses food waste and sewage sludge in a digestion process to generate methane gas that can be used to generate electricity. The byproduct, which the company calls “equate,” can be used as liquid fertilizer.

There was a noisy controversy last summer and fall over whether the nitrogen-rich material, derived from microbial digestion of waste, can be safely spread on farm fields.

The tank is to be used to store the “equate” until arrangements are made to distribute it, according to a Planning Board document presented Monday to the Town Board.

Councilman Arthur W. Gerbec suggested last year that Quasar should build a storage tank instead of lagoons. The topic of waste storage didn’t come up when the Town Board approved construction of Quasar’s Liberty Drive “anaerobic digester” in 2012.

Zuber said the tank would be about 14 feet high. He said Quasar officials told the Planning Board they aren’t required to have “secondary containment” around the tank.

“Even though it’s right next door to a creek?” Gerbec asked.

“They’re going to have their experts telling us they don’t need a berm, and we’ll have experts in the audience telling us they do,” Councilman Larry L. Helwig said. “So we’re going to be hung out to dry.”

Zuber said that it’s up to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, not the town, to regulate this storage tank.

Also Monday, the board scheduled a public hearing for 7:15 p.m. Feb. 10 on rezoning for the Meadows at Wheatfield, a 24.2-acre multiuse project on Niagara Falls Boulevard.

Cliffe said that there won’t be a vote that night. The board declined to order the beginning of an environmental review Monday, when no one would second Gerbec’s motion.

The development is projected to include 230 housing units in several buildings of four, eight and 26 units, along with a restaurant, a clubhouse and a building combining residential and commercial space.

The site is on the north side of Niagara Falls Boulevard near Old Falls Boulevard and Arnold Drive, on a farm site where a seasonal corn maze is now located.

Part of the site needs to be rezoned from light industrial to planned unit development.

Town Attorney Robert J. O’Toole said reductions in the allowable density for planned unit developments, which the board passed Monday, won’t affect the Meadows project.

Zuber said walking trails, gazebos, barbecue pits and a dog park, all privately maintained, have been added to the plan, as of last week’s Planning Board meeting. The western entrance will be lined up with the existing traffic signal at Old Falls Boulevard, he said.

The board also authorized a $15,000 payment to Wendel to design potential improvements to the flood-prone Willow Lake subdivision’s drainage system.

Insight Pipe Contracting was hired for a maximum of $20,370 to perform video inspection of the storm sewer lines in that subdivision to see if they are blocked. “It’s a flaky system. It needs help from time to time,” Cliffe said.

“The system will drain if it’s completely clear,” Helwig said. “It’s going to get blocked again, no doubt.” He said he wants recommendations on preventing that.

Officials said recent Willow Lake floods were blamed on beaver dams, a sandbag and a 2-by-6 piece of lumber in the pipe.