Niagara Gazette

April 6, 2014

Lewiston officials say town code should keep waste, Quasar out

By Timothy Chipp
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Lewiston residents living in fear of biological waste lagoons invading their neighborhood were warned to stay on the lookout.

The town’s code book, according to its five-member town board, contains restrictions on transporting waste materials anywhere within its borders. But a code book doesn’t actually stop it from happening, it only allows the town to levy fines for breaking the rules.

So it’s fallen on Supervisor Dennis Brochey to provide a public fight on behalf of the residents looking to keep companies like Quasar Energy Group, an Ohio-based firm with a location in Wheatfield, from creating and filling any lagoons or transporting the materials through town. 

“We have codes that prohibit this from being transferred,” Councilman Ronald Winkley said at the board’s March 24 meeting. “The supervisor’s been doing a very good job contacting Quasar and being very forceful delivering the position of the whole board of what we think about this stuff. Whether the (state Department Environmental Conservation) issued a permit or not had nothing to do with us. That was done totally separate from us. That doesn’t mean they’re going to be able to do this.”

Quasar began its process of acquiring permits from the DEC last summer to create the lagoons in Lewiston’s Sanborn area.

According to the DEC, the Wheatfield plant, called Niagara BioEnergy, “accepts manure, food waste, fats, oils, greases, sludges resulting from the treatment process at wastewater treatment plants (biosolids), energy crops, glycerin, stillage and other by-products from the production of ethanol and bio-diesel” to be converted into electricity.

A bio-gas, which is converted into the electricity, and a liquid, bio-waste byproduct are the end result of the process, with the liquid reportedly being available to farmers as a fertilizer for crops. It’s this item Quasar is looking to store in its lagoons between its creation and eventual sale.

Aiding the fight, board members say, is the local “home rule” policy, which allows the town’s codes to supersede any permit the DEC has issued. It’s this idea where Brochey has hammered Quasar in recent public statements, going as far as saying he told the company’s representatives they’d be best leaving the entire county.

“I did forward information on our code book to the Quasar people via (Building Inspector) Tim Masters and their attorney’s supposed to be looking it over to interpret it hopefully the same way we interpret it, which is ‘keep ‘em away from us,’” he said. “I explained to them they’d be doing us all a great favor if they left Niagara County and go back to Ohio. Whether they take that advice or not, they’ve been pretty cordial with me on the phone.

“I’m not going to say anything bad about them. They do stand by their product and (understand) my concern. You see, when I was younger, bacon was good for me. But it’s not good for me now. And what you interpret as good today may not be good 20, 25 years from now.”

Quasar, though, says the company’s products and plans are being misconstrued by residents. In a written statement provided to the Niagara Gazette, company spokesperson Jon Cohen said though the company’s aware and respectful of the safety concerns residents and board members have, Quasar isn’t “in the business of storing, dumping or otherwise creating waste,” but instead creates something useful from it.

In addition, the byproduct liquid, he said, has the ability to provide cost-savings to farmers and has had an impact on a few related markets, given the ability to proceed.

“It lowers the cost of farming for local farms,” Cohen said. “For example, it has been a tremendous boon to the growing yogurt industry across New York state and it provides a modern alternative to the conventional ‘bury or burn’ treatment of municipal waste. It also reduces the threat of run-off contamination posed by traditional fertilizing methods.”

Contact reporter Timothy Chipp at 282-2311, ext. 2251, or follow on Twitter @timchipp.