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Wheatfield residents assail fertilizer from sewage sludge

WHEATFIELD – It was not on the agenda, but fertilizer made from sewage sludge still occupied much of the Town Board’s discussion Monday night.

A succession of residents voiced their opposition to Quasar Energy Group’s proposal to make the fertilizer from sewage sludge through an anaerobic digester at the company’s plant on Liberty Drive.

“Back in the Bible days, they knew it wasn’t good,” said Monica Daigler, one of the leaders of Wheatfield Against Sludge, “and it isn’t good now.”

Another opponent, Laurie Galbo, turned in petitions and cited cases in which deaths were attributed to farms treated with bio-solid fertilizer.

Ann Marie Reeve, of Pendleton, praised the sludge opponents for “getting this out of your town. It makes it easier to get it out of ours.”

Nathan C. Carr, a Quasar biomass account executive, characterized the reports of deaths and illnesses as “anecdotal.”

“We feel in time we can build trust by doing the right things.”

He, in turn, was challenged by opponent John Wozniak, who contended that the safety of sewage sludge fertilizer was based on “outdated science.”

After the meeting, Supervisor Robert C. Cliffe explained that work on the proposed regulation of the fertilizer is taking time.

“We need to make sure we have a law that’s defensible, and we want to be sure we can allow individual small purchasers to use the products,” Cliffe said. “We also have to look at this from the other side, but I have 8,000 bosses in Wheatfield, and 7,998 of them don’t want it.”

He added: “Our attorney is still working on the wording. We’re not there yet. Possibly it will be ready at the next meeting. More likely it will be the meeting after that at the end of July.”

In other business, the board approved the appointment of Paul Siegmann as deputy highway superintendent on the recommendation of Highway Superintendent Art Kroening. He replaces Greg Martin, who resigned earlier this month.

The board voted to withdraw its application for a $989,681 state grant for Phase II of the River Road Trail, part of the Niagara River Greenway, which would connect Niagara Falls and North Tonawanda.

A recent cost estimate exceeded the original $1.8 million projection by more than 40 percent. The town has signed contracts to build the first phase of the trail from Niagara Falls to Liberty Drive.

The board also approved an excavation permit requested by Sean Schott, who wants to create a 0.37-acre pond on his property on Hunt Street in Bergholz.

During a public hearing prior to the board meeting, he promised that the work would take about a week and that he would clean up along the route used by trucks hauling the dirt away. He said he planned to stock the pond with fish.