Marilla residents filled the room at last week’s Town Board meeting armed with questions and information they researched to oppose a renewable energy company’s plan to rent a million-gallon tank on a local farmer’s land.
Farmer Stanley Travis has applied for a permit from the Department of Environmental Conservation to lease his concrete-walled holding tank to Quasar Energy Group.
But Charles Specht, an Eastwood Road resident and neighbor of Travis’, said he had done research on the waste that would be in the effluent to be stored near his property. He pointed out that one of the products was wastewater that can contain drugs people flush down the toilet, metals and “who knows what else.” Specht said his part of town has to depend on wells for water and is the most at risk for contamination.
Specht said Travis told him the product was “perfectly safe,” but he said Quasar won’t give a guarantee.
Specht said his research revealed that if this product is spread on crops for animals, you have to wait three years before harvesting them and if the product is used or spread on land the public uses, you have to wait 12 months before people can access it.
Others had the same worries, including fears of what would happen if the tank overflows due to heavy rains and gets in the ground water.
Another neighbor, Tim Scott, argued that overflow of the tank would not only pollute the wells in the area but contaminate the entire town because it is next to a stream that runs through the town. He also questioned why Travis needs a DEC permit if the byproduct, after processing, is similar to manure.
“Farmers don’t need a permit to use manure,” he said.
Scott suggested a petition be circulated throughout the town against the permit.
Supervisor George Gertz said, “You should forward your information to the DEC, but a petition is not a bad idea. There is nothing at this time in our code book, and if information comes from the public, it has more meaning. Documented proof speaks volumes.”
He added that the Town Board “is not sitting on our hands, we are investigating it and are being proactive.”
The board at its work session Aug. 6 agreed to have Town Attorney Joel Kurtzhalts go over all the town codes to see if he could find a way to stop the permit process.
Jim Hopper, chairman of the town’s Conservation Advisory Board, said, “Our watershed is huge, I walked the whole thing and a lot of farmers, animals and vegetation will be affected. There is not enough information and a lot of fears. I talked today to the CEO of Quasar and they are willing to bring people to Ohio to see their operations and are willing to meet with people. They have a new plant in Lewiston that is set to open next week.”
Hopper added that Travis’ above-ground tank would not be used for its original purpose. He asked if that means he would have to go through tests and a process for a new permit.
“That’s what we’re looking into,” Gertz said. “But no town law can override a state law. We are in the process of gathering information.”
Last December, Travis asked the town for a permit for the storage but was told by Gertz and Building Inspector Scott Rider there was no town code to deal with it and that he would have to go to the DEC for a permit.
Farmer Leon Berner asked Gertz why he didn’t tell the Town Board last December when first notified of Travis’ plans and Gertz replied, “I did all I could legally with the request ... except tell the Town Board. For that, I apologize. I must have overlooked it somehow.”
To date, the DEC has not approved the permit. Currently it has until Sept. 6 to do so, unless an extension is granted.