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Wheatfield Town Board hires law firm in potential challenge to state ruling on biosolids

WHEATFIELD – After a closed-door session Monday, the Town Board voted to hire a law firm to plan a potential challenge to a state ruling on biosolids.

The Buffalo law firm Bond, Schoeneck & King is to analyze the June 9 ruling from the state Department of Agriculture and Markets, which contended that the town’s law banning the land application of biosolids improperly interferes with farming.

“The short-term approval was a letter saying, ‘We are not going to abide by your (ruling),’ ” Supervisor Robert B. Cliffe said.

Bond Schoeneck attorneys charge up to $225 an hour. The cost of this assignment is unknown at this time, Town Attorney Matthew E. Brooks said.

The department ordered the town not to prevent the use of biosolids by Milleville Brothers Farm, which obtained a state Department of Environmental Conservation license to inject the material as fertilizer into a field on Nash Road.

Resident Julie Otto contended that Ag and Markets’ goal is “to find a home for municipal and industrial waste. It’s a sin. … We’re opposing this because of our health.”

She played a recording by resident Monica Daigler, who said Ag and Markets issued “an opinion not backed with scientific evidence, and it’s a political statement. … Farmers have the right to farm. They do not have the right to pollute.”

The Ag and Markets ruling contradicted one last month from State Supreme Court Justice Frank Caruso, who upheld the town’s law even though the ban applied to those with state biosolids application permits.

Caruso’s ruling is being appealed by Quasar Energy Group, whose subsidiary, Sustainable Bioelectric, challenged the ban passed in 2014. The company operates an anaerobic digester on Liberty Drive in Wheatfield that turns out biosolids as a byproduct of its generation of methane gas by turning microbes loose on organic waste, including sludge from municipal sewage-treatment plants.

On another topic, the board set a July 25 public hearing on the rezoning of three adjoining lots on Cayuga Drive Extension from residential to commercial.

Applicant Ronald Cicero is seeking to sell the site of the former Justin Tyme restaurant, which is located on one of the lots, but the zoning interferes with that hope. Brooks said the restaurant was a nonconforming use when it was in business, but lost its grandfathered status by being closed for more than a year. That forced Cicero to seek the rezoning.