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Marilla residents must wait longer for local sludge law

Dozens of Marilla residents made it clear Thursday night that they don’t want bio-solids in their town.

However, they’ll have to wait until next month before a local law that will tightly regulate the material is on the books after the town board unanimously tabled a decision.

An overflow crowd packed into town hall Thursday for a public hearing on the proposed bio-solids law, causing the town council to relocate the meeting next door to the considerably larger Marilla Community Center.

More than one dozen residents out of the nearly 100 in attendance spoke, with none voicing an opinion in favor of bio-solids, a byproduct in a process that turns waste into methane gas and is marketed as a fertilizer.

The product has sparked concerns in rural communities that it may contain hazardous metals and other contaminants.

“These are operations that are going to be going on in residential back yards,” said Joe Kibler, “not in industrial areas where you don’t have to worry about children or traffic or people’s well being. It doesn’t belong in the backyards of a residential area.”

However, Nate Carr, a representative of the West Seneca-based Quasar which manufactures the byproduct, said the fears are unfounded, adding his company exceeds bio-solid standards set by the cooperative extensions at Cornell and Rutgers universities.

“The draft law is unduly burdensome,” Carr said. “The vast majority of provisions are inconsistent with New York State agencies.”

Carr added that “separation distances” listed in the law effectively disqualify all properties in Marilla from becoming sites that could use bio-solids.

Members of the town’s planning and conservation advisory boards urged the town council to table a decision to provide them more time to examine the proposal, noting some of them saw it on Wednesday for the first time.

“We spent three hours going through the law at our meeting last night,” said Sara Mochrie of the conservation board. “We found several things in the law that could be worded better. Voting on this law tonight would not be the right thing to do.”

Planning Board member Richard Rose noted that his board would be prepared to offer its opinion on the law at its March 19 meeting.

Some residents were dissatisfied with the requests from the planning and conservation boards, suggesting the board approve the law and make edits at a later date.

“We’re tired of this; we’ve been doing this for 14 months,” said Joe Marzec. “These people are here because they want to see action.”

Supervisor Earl Gingerich Jr. said he understands the frustration, but said the council wants to make sure it passes a law that would survive a court challenge.

“We don’t want to end up in a position where we can’t defend a legal challenge,” Gingerich said. “We have to do a thorough job.”

Councilman Warren Handley came to the defense of the conservation board, which took the brunt of criticism, noting that they found several editorial mistakes in the document.

He pointed out that town attorneys took an interest in some of the observations made by the conservation board.

“They just got the law last night,” Handley said. “They picked it apart as they were supposed to do. They did a darn good job.”

The council will address the law again at 7 p.m. April 9, when it will host another public hearing. It will be followed by a regularly scheduled board meeting when a decision will be made.