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'Don't do that to us.' Town resident wary of odor from proposed Ag Park waste digester

By Mike Pettinella

A Town of Batavia resident and business owner reiterated his objections Tuesday night to a proposed Genesee Biogas plant earmarked for the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park but, once again, project developers attempted to alleviate his concerns over the smell of its emissions.

Speaking at the Batavia Town Planning Board meeting at the Town Hall on West Main Street Road, Eric Biscaro questioned Lauren Toretta, president of CH4 Biogas, and Sara Gilbert of Pinewood Engineering, about the extent of the odor from the facility, which is set to be constructed on Ag Park Drive, not far away from Ellicott Street Road.

“If you go by O-AT-KA (Milk Products Cooperative) on lots of given days, the odor there is enough to … it’s bad,” Biscaro said. “So, it’s seems that it would be more intense at your place if you’re going to bring it over from O-AT-KA and (HP) Hood and Upstate (Niagara Cooperative). If you’re going to be worse than O-AT-KA, then I’m going to tell you that I’m going 100 percent against this.”

Biscaro mentioned his neighbors on Ellicott Street Road and also those on Shepard Road when he added, “We really don’t want you to do that to us.”

The scene mirrored what played out six months ago when Biscaro, as a member of the Genesee County Planning Board, voiced his opposition to the digester based on the potential odor.

Last night, as was the case in May, Gilbert and Toretta, responded by stating that measures are in place to mitigate the smell as the digester handles sanitary waste primarily from the three Ag Park enterprises.

Gilbert said the digester storage tanks feature a process that is “entirely enclosed,” unlike the system at O-AT-KA that has open air containers where “odors can get into the air and get wind dispersed.”

“It is an enclosed process, it has odor filtration, and we also have an odor mitigation plan that we’ve started to prepare if there’s a breakdown in the process; a way to identify it and rectify it,” she said.

Toretta called the digester, which was first proposed about nine years ago, a “next level” project and a “landmark facility” that comes with numerous technological advances.

Biscaro then brought up the placement of the facility and wondered why it couldn’t be shifted further north on Ag Park Drive, closer to HP Hood and Upstate and farther away from people’s homes.

“This is the parcel that the Ag Park asked us to be on,” Toretta replied, noting that Hood is planning an expansion and has use for more of its property. “We also oriented the site as far from the road as possible, up against the tree line …”

Prior to Biscaro’s comments, Gilbert updated planners on the project, emphasizing that waste from the food processing plants will be shipped to lagoons approved by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and not to the City of Batavia wastewater treatment plant.

She said the waste is deemed by the DEC as “good material for fertilizer.”

Gilbert addressed other key points such as making sure the project aligns with federal requirements concerning environmental impact, stormwater treatment, water usage, truck traffic and wildlife protection.

She noted that county planners have recommended approval of a height variance for the storage tanks, and that the next step is to return to the Town Planning Board to take on the State Environmental Quality Review process.

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