Tonawanda News

July 9, 2014

Area residents oppose Quasar

By Jessica Bagley
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — TOWN OF TONAWANDA — Residents from nearby municipalities attended Monday’s town meeting to implore the board not to do business with Quasar Energy Group, a company that produces liquid fertilizer made partially from human waste. 

“We are very concerned about the contamination of our land, and we don’t want anyone to get sick,” Julie Otto, of Sanborn, said.

Residents in several Niagara County towns, most prominently Wheatfield, fiercely opposed using the substance, known as equate, a fertilizer derived from what the company describes as “biosolids.”

At the board’s last meeting, the body approved agreements with Quasar and Modern Landfill Inc. The town is still considering its options, but awarded both contracts in order to begin the process, officials said. Members of the Wheatfield Town Council have pledged to ban the spreading of equate and other elected officials, including state Sen. George Maziarz, R-Newfane, have urged other municipalities in the area to do the same.

Quasar’s anaerobic digestion facilities accept sludge from wastewater treatment plants, manure, oils, food waste and other materials. The plant grinds the biomasses into smaller pieces and sends them through a digestion process that can take up to 30 days to complete. After the treatment is complete, biogas, which can be converted into electricity, is produced, as well as a liquid material that can be used as a fertilizer on farms. 

The issue has proved to be highly controversial. In May, Amherst stopped sending its sludge to the Quasar plant and and other municipalities have banned the storage and spread of the company’s fertilizer.

Quasar would cost Tonawanda $33 per wet ton delivered to the company’s plant in Wheatfield and $31.50 to its facility in West Seneca. Modern Landfill would take the town’s biosolids for $34.75 per wet ton.

The town previously burned the solid waste itself, but keeping up with state Department of Environmental Conservation mandates would have cost $5.6 million. Instead, contractors are completing an addition at the wastewater treatment plant so that the town can transport the solid waste off site. Construction is expected to be complete in August.

On Monday, the town awarded a contract to M&T Trucking Inc., which will haul the waste away. But exactly where the waste is going remains unclear, and residents from Wheatfield and West Seneca don’t want it going to the facilities near their homes.

“As Wheatfield residents, we don’t understand why we have to suffer so Tonawanda can get rid of its problem,” Laurie Galbo said.

Wheatfield resident Monica Daigler, who led the fight in her hometown to ban the spread and storage of Quasar’s fertilizer, said she hopes to stop the supply of waste to the company.

“I don’t like using the word ‘biosolid’ because people don’t realize how dangerous it is,” she said. “As more people learn about this, they’re disturbed.”

The state Department of Environmental Conservation regulates the process and requires sampling of Quasar’s equate fertilizer before it is stored or used.

Although the DEC states on its website that the fertilizer product is non-hazardous, opponents of the company argued Monday that equate contains human waste, and thus contains pathogens that would contaminate the environment.

“There will be longterm health effects,” Annmarie Reed, of Pendleton, said. “It will allow pathogens to enter our land and water ... properties will be contaminated.”

Quasar spokesman Nate Carr was not available for an interview Tuesday, but said in an email that equate is a non-hazardous alternative to chemical fertilizers. State and federal agencies have reviewed and studied the product and determined that it is safe, Carr said. 

“By contracting with Quasar, communities like the Town of Tonawanda reduce costs while contributing to producing renewable energy and a nutrient-rich fertilizer product. It’s a local resource used locally, supporting local economies,” he said. 

Also at Monday’s meeting, the town board approved adding no standing signs on Parker Boulevard near its intersection with Ogden Road. The intersection was the site of fatal motorcycle accident in April.

“We’re hoping to increase the visibility and reduce the chance for accidents,” Police Chief Anthony Palombo said.

Parker Boulevard resident Chris Fiore said that the area’s trees make it difficult for drivers to see. He argued that a stop sign should be added to increase safety.

“It’s a very busy street ... drivers are coming from Sheridan, and they are going from 40 mph to 30 mph, and they don’t obey the rules — they just zip (through the intersection),” he said. “There’s a big stretch there, they go fast and now there’s more and more young kids in the area.”

Palombo said the town can’t install a stop sign per state Department of Transportation regulations, but board members and highway officials said they would look into the issue further.

Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000 ext. 4150, or follow her on Twitter @JessicaLBagley.