The Marilla Town Board voted unanimously Thursday night to extend an existing six-month moratorium on the storage of “sludge” in town.
The town is confident its code against the commercial storage of what Quasar Energy Group calls “equate,” a fertilizer made from the anaerobic digestion of food waste and sewage sludge.
The NYS Department of Environment Conservation granted Marilla farmer Stanley Travis a permit in March to store this equate in a tank on his property, but he still needs a variance from town’s Zoning Board of Appeals to go through with the plan. Travis happens to the chair of the zoning board and he would have to recuse himself from any vote on an appeal.
At a public hearing held before the Thursday’s vote, residents expressed concern about the safety of spreading the controversial fertilizer.
“We need to know who, when and where this stuff will be spread,” Jim Beats said.
Town Supervisor Earl Gingerich told the crowd that there are 18 applications on file with the DEC to spread it on fields in Bennington, Marilla and Elma. “But when I asked for the list the DEC said they would send it to me,” Gingerich said, “but now they say we have to request it through a freedom of information law. I am still waiting for it.”
Several residents in town have donated enough funds to hire Richard Stanton, an attorney well-versed in state environmental quality review issues, to represent them in their fight against equate storage, Gingerich said.
The Town Board voted to have Town Attorney Joel Kurtzhalts research if it can use town money to join in the lawsuit with the residents or if the town should pursue legal action separately. Kurtzhalts later explained to The Buffalo News he would have an answer for the Board in about two weeks.
The Town Board believes the DEC failed to conduct proper reviews before making a decision on the permit application by Travis to store equate from Quasar Energy’s digester plants on his property. The permit states Travis’ tank is a million gallon tank but it is only 587,000 gallons, according to the agency that drew up the plans in 2003.
“Obviously the DEC did not do their math. If there is a million gallon tank on Travis’ land I can’t find it,” Gingerich said.
Gingerich cautioned about a complete ban on sludge.
“If we ban the sludge altogether,we will lose,” he said. “The state will supercede us. We don’t want to ban it altogether, just the ingredients in the equate that are injurious to health, plants, animals and humans. We can stop it from coming, but we need to regulate against dangerous ingredients.”
Quasar Energy has tested for nine chemicals but there are about 70 more that they could test for, according to Eugene Limpensel, a member of Marilla’s “Sludge Committee.”
Committee chairman Joseph Barbarits said Quasar Energy wants an open session with the town. The committee wants a chance to counter Quasar’s remarks with questions and research the group has done.
In other business:
• Gingerich appointed Councilwoman Julie Lathrop as his deputy to take over when he is absent.