The Marilla Town Board reported at its work session Tuesday that the Department of Environmental Conservation has extended until Sept. 19 a decision on whether to issue a permit sought by local farmer Stanley Travis to store biowaste on his Eastwood Road farm.
Supervisor George Gertz told the board, “We can’t stop the permit process, but what is applied for and what is approved are two different things. ... The DEC has complete control. Even if the Town Board had declared lead agency, they (DEC) would have taken it away from us.”
Gertz also said a local farmer in Marilla wants to spread this product on his land.
Gertz said, “Even if the DEC approves the permit, what we can do is place a moratorium on biowaste storage and spreading for a six-month period because it is considered a new product and unknown to us.
“Once we know what we are dealing with, we’ll place the moratorium. It will buy us six months. A lawsuit against us could happen, but probably we would win it. The second thing we will do is hire an environmental engineer to write a law against it.”
The Town Board asked Town Attorney Joel Kurtzhalts to write a letter to the DEC regarding the permit applied for by Trav-Co Farms, owned by Stanley Travis, that storage of the effluent is against some of the town’s zoning laws, but some of the wording must be revised before the board can sign it.
Resident Randy Reichert told board members he didn’t think they could stop the storage because Quasar Energy Group, owners of the digester that produces the effluent, is funded by a federal grant.
The effluent made from biowaste is to be spread on animal cropland in place of regular fertilizer. According to Quasar Energy Group, the effluent makes crops grow faster and larger and is cheaper than regular fertilizer.
Town residents are concerned about the effect the effluent would have on groundwater and their wells if the storage tank overflows in a heavy rain.
Reichert said he was disappointed at the behavior of some of those attending last Thursday’s informational meeting put on by Quasar Energy. “Personal attacks on people were unnecessary at the meeting,” he said.
The board agreed with him that the crowd of over 400 people attending the meeting Thursday were told to be polite, but many were not.
Reichert said the effluent is considered by the DEC as a Class B product, which can only be spread on crops intended for animal feed, versus a Class A product, which is heated more but is too expensive.” He added that “Stanley almost is as much a victim as we are. He did us a favor and opened our eyes.”
Farmer Evan Gerhardt told the board some of the things the town can do is regulate the dispersal of the product, require a lot of testing and other actions because of the newness of the product.
He said farmers are already regulated by what and how much they can spread on their land.