WHEATFIELD – An audience of about 40 town residents had nothing good to say Monday about Quasar Energy Group’s request to build a 5 million-gallon concrete storage tank for a fertilizer byproduct at its Liberty Drive plant.
The byproduct, a nitrogen-rich mix called “equate,” is what’s left after an anaerobic digestion system finishes generating methane gas to produce electricity. The raw material is sewage sludge and food waste.
Kristin Savard, the Lewiston engineer retained by Quasar, said the covered tank was proposed instead of storing the equate in in-ground lagoons at farms whose owners would be the customers for the material.
“We did run into some public opposition to these ponds,” Savard said.
Alan Johnson, Quasar’s vice president for project management and development, said the search for places to build ponds is “on a temporary hold.”
The state Department of Environmental Conservation has issued permits for the equate to be spread on 10 farms in Lewiston, Cambria, Wilson, Wheatfield and Pendleton. Johnson said equate from the Wheatfield plant already has been spread on some Niagara County fields.
Planning Board Chairman Richard Muscatello said his board received a sketch plan for the tank Jan. 22 and asked the Town Board to hold a public information meeting on it, which is what occurred Monday.
Muscatello said the Planning Board has the power to amend a site plan, but it won’t act on Quasar’s plan until it receives written responses from Quasar to a list of questions and until the company completes an environmental review analysis.
The residents at Monday’s meeting doubted that the equate and the tank would be safe.
Johnson said state Department of Environmental Conservation regulations require the tank to be emptied and inspected once a year.
“That 5 million gallons is all over our land, year after year?” resident Helene Petrakis asked.
“Um, yes,” Johnson answered.
“This area has had every kind of disaster from Love Canal on down,” Petrakis said. “Everyone in the area has a right to be concerned.”
Other residents complained that Quasar didn’t say anything about storage tanks or lagoons when it won the Town Board’s approval for the 750,000-gallon digester in 2012.
Johnson said Quasar has contacted the Niagara County Sewer District to explore storing equate in the district’s idle 10 million-gallon lagoon. Lockport Town Supervisor Marc R. Smith, the district chairman, said by telephone that the district’s board hasn’t acted on the request.
He said the lagoon hasn’t been used for years and now has trees growing in it, so making it useful would be a challenge.