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Lockport Town Board approves six-month moratorium on use of biosolids as fertilizer

LOCKPORT – The town has joined the list of localities imposing a moratorium on the use of biosolids as fertilizer.

The Town Board passed a six-month ban Wednesday that Supervisor Marc R. Smith said would give Lockport time “to study it and decide what to do. At this point, it seems like a pretty complicated issue.”

The use of byproducts from anaerobic digestion, which government agencies call biosolids and foes call “biosludge,” has been controversial for the last couple of years in Niagara County, ever since Quasar Energy Group opened a digester in Wheatfield and offered the nitrogen-rich byproduct, which the company calls “equate,” to farmers.

The digester uses microbes to reduce food waste and sludge from sewage-treatment plants into methane gas, which can be used to generate electricity or produce compressed natural gas. Wheatfield banned its use last year, and the local law is being challenged in court by Quasar’s subsidiary, Sustainable Bioelectric. Biosolids are endorsed as safe by the state departments of Environmental Conservation and Agriculture & Markets.

The town is considering a local law of its own on the subject. Town Attorney Michael J. Norris said the Town Board wants time to study the issue.

“We’re going to consult the DEC, and we’re going to talk to some people who are against (biosolids),” Norris said.

On another environmental topic, the Town Board became at least the third in the county to ask the County Legislature to follow Erie County’s lead in banning the use of microbeads in consumer cosmetics.

Smith, who also is chairman of the county sewer district, said the beads are too small to be caught by the filters of the county sewer plant, leading to their presence in water supplies and the fish that live in them.

Also Wednesday, the board settled an assessment challenge from the owners of a Minnick Road mobile home park by paying refunds on the park’s fire-protection, water and sewer taxes.

The former owner of Suburban Rapids LLC will be repaid a total of $5,632.24. Norris said the mobile home park went through a change of ownership in the midst of an assessment challenge, and the Town Board decided that it was fair to pay back some of the taxes paid on the facility.

Norris said that assessment challenges are usually focused on the future and that complainants usually forgo refunds, but that in this case, ownership changed during the process.