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Wales Town Board passes ‘sludge’ ban

There will be no sludge slinging in the Town of Wales. Nor will it be spread or stored in town.

A unanimous vote of the town council Tuesday officially prohibited in Wales biosolids known as “sludge,” concluding a year’s worth of research and deliberation in the community.

Biosolids are a byproduct in a process in which anaerobic digesters convert food waste and sludge from sewage treatment plants into methane gas.

The nitrogen-rich sludge is marketed to farmers as fertilizer.

Because of fears that chemicals and heavy metals from the sewage won’t be adequately removed from the product, sludge has also become a lightning rod for controversy in communities throughout Western New York.

A less restrictive measure was passed last year in neighboring Marilla, which has been challenged in court by the state’s Division of Agriculture and Markets.

There has been no indication that Wales could face a similar challenge, but the town has more at stake: It’s the only municipality in Erie County that relies solely on well water for its drinking supply.

“It’s an appropriate measure we need to take to protect the health of our current and future residents,” Councilman Michael Simon said.

Simon added the issue was debated by a committee representing a cross-section of the town, with each member bringing a unique perspective from which the local law was crafted.

“It’s been a good, community effort,” agreed Supervisor Rickey Venditti, adding many town residents requested the ban.

Tuesday’s decision comes two weeks after the town council hosted a public hearing on the local law.

Venditti said the hearing attracted between 10-15 people, all of whom favored the ban, noting they all rely on wells for potable water.

“It’s a very touchy subject,” Venditti said, “one that’s close to the heart.”