WHEATFIELD – An attorney for Quasar Energy Group on Monday offered the Town Board what appeared to be veiled warnings of a lawsuit if it passes a proposed law banning further use of biosolids in the town.
Paul F. Keneally of Rochester’s Underberg & Kessler law firm said Quasar has submitted plenty of material to the town defending the process it uses to convert food waste, including sewage sludge, into methane gas.
The byproduct from the anaerobic digestion process Quasar uses at its Liberty Drive plant is a nitrogen-rich liquid the company calls “equate.”
Milleville Brothers Farm has a state permit to spread the material on 10 large fields it owns around the county, but has pledged not to do so because of the controversy over alleged health risks from the use of the fertilizer.
Resident Laurie Galbo said, “We’re not backing down, we’re not going anywhere and we’re not changing our minds.” She challenged Quasar spokesman Nathan C. Carr to prove at a public meeting that the material is safe.
Town Attorney Robert J. O’Toole said the board won’t vote on the ban until the July 28 meeting at the earliest, because the environmental review process hasn’t been completed.
Keneally said, “passing a local law, especially a moratorium local law, has to be based on facts and science, or it risks being arbitrary and capricious.”
Local governmental actions that are deemed arbitrary and capricious are vulnerable to being overturned in court.
Keneally also warned that harming Quasar’s business could be considered taking of property without due process, or a violation of New York’s law protecting vested interests.
The proposed law allows existing equate-related activities to continue, but Carr said the law might interfere with Quasar potentially improving its technology.
“We could look at eventually changing something at our plant, making it better,” Carr said. But he asserted that the law would stop Quasar from doing so.
O’Toole said the facility wouldn’t be allowed to expand, but new sludge supply contracts probably would be all right.
“It’s still the same business,” Supervisor Robert B. Cliffe said. “The volume is based on the size of the building.”
Meanwhile, the board blocked action on the Cobblestone Creek development, bounded by Ward and Errick roads and Lemke Drive, as no board member would make a motion for a negative declaration on environmental impact. A public hearing would have to follow such a declaration.
The project, brought forward by Rosal Homes more than a year ago, would include 39 patio homes, along with four full-size single-family home lots on Errick Road. The cluster development would include about 2,000 feet of private roadways.
Parts of the parcel are in a flood plain, and Town Engineer Timothy Zuber said the subdivision can’t be approved until the town has a letter from the Federal Emergency Management Agency allowing the use of fill to raise the land level.
Residents warned the board that fill might cause flooding into existing homes’ backyards nearby and force the owners to buy flood insurance.