A West Seneca renewable energy company’s plan to use a local farmer’s property to store processed bio-waste attracted a crowd of about three dozen residents to the Marilla Town Board meeting last week.
Farmer Stanley Travis, of Eastwood Road, is seeking a permit to store the waste product. Travis first approached the town building inspector regarding his project but was told nothing was in the town code giving for such a permit, and he needed to go to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
The DEC then placed a legal notice in the Alden Advertiser about the storage of effluent manure, bio solids and food waste, such as fats, oils and grease.
After fielding numerous phone calls, telling residents the town has nothing to say about the issue, Supervisor George Gertz called the DEC, inviting representatives to a meeting July 11. The state declined, Gertz said.
At the beginning of the meeting, Gertz told the audience the board never voted on the issue.
“We know as much as you do from the ad in the paper,” he said.
Farmer Leon Berner asked Travis, who was at the meeting, to explain exactly what he had in mind when he agreed to let the bio-energy company use his 1-million-gallon concrete storage pit for treated organic waste.
In response, Kristin Savard, a representative from the Quasar Energy Group company, said the facility under construction will process organic waste that would otherwise be sent to landfills.
Instead, she said, the waste will produce clean, renewable energy. The renewable energy process residuals will be sold to New York State Electric and Gas to provide electricity. The end product can be spread on farm land like fertilizer and needs to be stored like fertilizer, she said.
Travis, who has owned and operated a 27-acre farm on Eastwood Road for 35 years, said his concrete pit is 12 inches thick and has never leaked. He said he first heard of the green plan on a trip to Ohio and looked into it to resolve sustainable waste management solutions.
“This product will reduce the fertilizer costs, won’t contaminate the soil and is a renewable energy product,” he said. “I am as close to being an organic farmer as I can be. I use no pesticides. And no way am I going to contaminate any fields.”
If Travis gets a permit from the DEC, the processed waste will travel in trucks to his farm and sit in the tank for a period of 28 days. Travis told a neighbor, who was concerned about the odor, that the prevailing winds would only occasionally blow the smell her way.
Others questioned the number of trucks it would take to fill or remove the product from the million-gallon tank. One man said Marilla’s roads were terrible already, and others worried about the time the trucks would be on the road.
“What if this thing breaks or leaks?” asked Tim Scott, who is one of Travis’ neighbors. “The runoff area goes a mile, some goes to Cowlesville, some to a swale pond, and some runs on to Eastwood Road and into our local creek.”
He was told that the dangers are the same level of hazards posed by a fertilizer storage unit for manure.
The DEC oversees the storage and application process, Savard said, adding that all farms involved with this have to go through a state environmental quality review process.
One resident suggested the Town Board issue a moratorium until more information is available, but Gertz later told a reporter that that is not possible, as the state controls the issue.
Councilman Donald Darrow said he had contacted the DEC earlier that day and had gotten a 30-day extension from the current Aug. 6.