Wheatfield residents fight against use & storage liquid fertilizer

Jul 14, 2014

Some Wheatfield residents are fighting against the use of a liquid fertilizer they say contains harmful waste. The battle involves a national company operates businesses in Erie and Niagara counties.

Wheatfield Sludge fight.
Credit Photo from Wheatfield Against Sludge Facebook page

"They want to give this material to the farmers for free and they're calling it a fertilizer," said  Julie Otto, a Wheatfield resident. Otto is knowledgeable about the spreading of what is called "equate." It is what the Quasar Energy Group calls a byproduct generated at its two facilities in Wheatfield and West Seneca. 

Niagara County residents are upset because the company wants to set up a five million gallon storage tank for the material and is providing it free of charge to a farmers. But Otto said the material is sewage sludge that could pose a health risk.  It contains human waste.

"When it's removed from the sewage treatment plant and goes to the Anaerobic digester, bacteria is actually added to that and then they make the electricity, but nothing is removed,  so we're not sure why if the Federal Clean Water Act defines it as 'municipal sewage' as a pollutant -- how -- when it comes out of the Anaerobic digester -- when nothing has been removed -- it's now magically a fertilizer,"  said Otto.

Monica Daigler is also a Wheatfield resident working with Otto in this fight against the use of the material. "When we started uncovering what's in it, and what's in it is anything that pretty much goes down the drain," noted Daigler. "But what they also don't tell you is that anybody, no matter what their immune system is, could get sick from it. In doing research, we found that there's over 60,000 potential toxins that could be in this (Equate) and the EPA  mandates they test for nine metals, and that's it, and that's very freighting to us."

The State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Environmental Protection Agency say the practice is legal. But DEC permits include a harmless clause.

State Senator George Maziarz of Newfane is working to fight for a ban on the use of "equate." In Pendleton a public hearing on a restrictive  law will be held Monday. 

WBFO News tried to reach Quasar Friday, but did not receive a response. On Quasar's website here is how the company describes its work:

"Quasar Energy Group is recycling energy in North America from organic wastes. Based in Cleveland, Ohio, Quasar is a full service waste-to-energy company with a superior laboratory and engineering facility at The Ohio State University's Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) campus located in Wooster, Ohio. Quasar designs, builds, owns and operates anaerobic digestion facilities using U.S. components to produce renewable energy."

Quasar Technology also states that it can resolve "waste management issues facing agricultural farmers, industrial food companies, municipal treatment plants and ethanol producers" with the use of its anaerobic digestion technology.