WHEATFIELD – The developers of a plant that converts food waste and sewage sludge into methane and fertilizer told the Town Board on Monday that they have abandoned the notion of a single large lagoon to store the fertilizer.
Steven M. Smith, chief financial officer for Quasar Energy Group, said the plan to dig a 10 million-gallon lagoon in a cornfield on Raymond Road in Cambria “is off the table.”
Instead, Smith said, he wants to find a number of smaller sites on farms where the “equate,” as he called the fertilizer byproduct, can be stored until it is spread on farm fields.
Smith repeatedly said, “We made a lot of mistakes,” as he defended himself from councilmen’s statements that implied Quasar misled the town last year when it granted approval for construction of Quasar’s processing plant on Liberty Drive.
“We did a bad job communicating the way we should have,” Smith said.
“We were totally unaware you were putting in any sort of lagoon,” Councilman Arthur Gerbec said.
He said there should be a silo or storage tank on the Liberty Drive property “as opposed to putting a lagoon or multiple lagoons in our community.”
“I think most of us assumed the storage would be on your site,” Councilman Gilbert Doucet said.
The plant, called an anaerobic digester, processes food waste and sewage sludge for 25 to 30 days, producing methane gas that can be used to produce electricity.
The “equate” left behind is rich in nitrogen and, according to engineer Kristin Savard of Advanced Design Group, has far more fertilizer value than typical commercial fertilizers.
However, it must be handled carefully.
“This product can only be placed on fields in certain times of the year. The rest of the year, it must be stored,” Savard said.
The company’s brochure says that users of the equate need approval from the state Department of Environmental Conservation in order to legally spread it on their fields.
Smith said the Liberty Drive plant is already taking material in, but National Grid hasn’t flipped the switch yet to take the resulting power.
“It was never discussed that this [fertilizer] was going to be stored in a 5 million-gallon hole in the ground,” Supervisor Robert B. Cliffe said. “Why is this coming up now, when your plant is almost done?”
“We just did a bad job,” Smith answered.
Smith said there are eight or nine possible locations under consideration. He said Quasar wants to build 1-, 2- or 3-acre lagoons on large parcels of land that are correctly zoned, with proper soil conditions for the project, and not near homes or businesses.
Cliffe said the town won’t act until it receives a site plan from Quasar for a specific location. Jennifer Dougherty, an attorney from Buffalo’s Philips Lytle firm, which is representing Quasar, said there are no such site plans at the moment.
Cliffe said the final decision on such sites would lie with the town Planning Board unless, as it did with the Liberty Drive plant, it yields that power to the Town Board.