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Quasar responds to Wheatfield residents’ concerns about ‘equate’

WHEATFIELD – Quasar Energy Group responded last week to a stack of questions posed by the Town of Wheatfield about its system of turning food waste and sewage sludge into methane gas and fertilizer.

In a letter to the town Planning Board, Ohio-based Quasar said the byproduct is 95 percent water and poses no health threat.

The questions were triggered by Quasar’s proposal to erect a 5-million-gallon tank on its Liberty Drive property to hold “equate,” the byproduct of the anaerobic digestion process.

The tank would be used to store the nitrogen-rich material until it can be hauled to local farmers for spreading or injection on their fields. Ten farmers in Niagara County have permits to use equate, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

“The DEC considers it a beneficial use of a product that would otherwise be landfilled,” Supervisor Robert B. Cliffe said. “The people don’t accept Quasar’s view. The people don’t accept the DEC’s view.”

Planning Board Chairman Richard Muscatello also noted the residents’ skepticism.

“They’re trying to convince the public, and they’re very vociferous,” he said.

Regulations limit the consumption of food that touches ground where equate has been used, and many residents are upset and are attempting to block the tank from being built.

Quasar sought permission to dig in-ground lagoons to hold the equate on farms in several towns and came up with the tank plan after running into resistance to the lagoons.

The response came the same day the Town Board scheduled an April 28 public hearing on a moratorium of up to six months on the disposal or storage of sludge, sewage sludge and “derivative products” in Wheatfield.

Cliffe said the moratorium would give the town time to hire an outside expert to give an opinion on whether a 5-million-gallon tank in close proximity to the Niagara River is a danger.

“We understand and respect the public’s concern for health and safety,” Quasar spokesman Jon Cohen said. “We share that concern. At the same time, there has been some misinformation about what we do.”

Cohen said the company plans a series of community meetings to defend its operations. He said those sessions were in the works before the moratorium proposal surfaced.

Cliffe said opponents of Quasar also seem to be planning a public meeting soon.