City Council hears feedback on proposed ban on food waste-to-energy facilities
The fate of a proposed siting of a food waste-to-energy facility in the Calverton Enterprise Park – and whether or not the town of Riverhead will allow such facilities anywhere within its borders – remains uncertain following hearings before City Council and the Zoning Board of Appeals.
This year. Murphree, the city’s zoning officer, ruled in March that the proposed use was not permitted by the zoning code that governs land use in the industrial park.
CEA Energy appealed Murphree’s decision to the Zoning Board of Appeals, which held a hearing on the appeal at its April 14 meeting. The company’s appeal remains pending.
Meanwhile, city officials moved forward with a code amendment that would specifically ban anaerobic digesters anywhere in the city. The city council held a public hearing on the proposed amendment to the code last week.
During the hearing, Murphree explained her March 4 rejection letter. “I felt it was too close – similar to one of the other prohibited uses (in the planned industrial park zoning code) which are garbage dumps, landfills, incinerators or transfer stations “, said Murphree.
“The public hearing before you tonight is intended to clarify what an anaerobic digester is and the banning of such use in PIP use and industrial zoning districts,” he said.
Anaerobic digesters use biological processes in an oxygen-free environment to convert source-separated food waste into biogas and compost products.
Community members expressed tentative support for digesters as a way to divert food waste from the total volume of municipal solid waste produced in the city that could otherwise be disposed of by transport to an incinerator. But residents advocated for smaller-scale digesters sized to handle the volume of food waste produced in Riverhead, rather than sized to accept food waste from out of town.
Marc Haubner, co-chair of the city’s environmental advisory committee, told the council that the city generates “much less than 20 tons a day” of food waste.
According to the city’s solid waste management plan, the city currently generates approximately 14.5 tons per day of food waste, which represents approximately 14% of the total municipal solid waste generated in the city each year.
Haubner and other residents signed a letter read aloud at the hearing by Toqui Terchun, president of the Greater Calverton Civic Association, urging the city council to only allow a food waste facility sized for meet the needs of the city and explore a “decentralized” approach. this could allow for smaller food waste processing facilities to be located at various locations around the city, which would “provide a cumulative capacity of 20 tonnes per day”.
The technology should be investigated further and the city should address the issue in its comprehensive plan update, according to the letter.
Former City Council and Planning Board member Barbara Blass of Jamesport said, “An anaerobic digester can have a place in a municipality’s overall (solid waste) management strategy. However, I fully support banning anaerobic digesters of a size and scope that would require importing waste from outside the town of Riverhead.
Blass said Riverhead Town has “a long history of addressing regional issues, while absorbing significant impacts.”
She also urged the board to consider “the concept of allowing smaller decentralized systems strategically located throughout the city, which would have little or no significant environmental impacts” and to limit the cumulative capacity to 20 tonnes per day” to ensure that we manage waste generated only within our community.
Victor Prusinowski, representing CEA Energy, told the board that a 20-tonne-per-day digester would not be practical for private sector investment and operation.
“If you build something as small as 10 or 20 tons a day, it will have to be operated by the municipality because there is not enough profit for anyone to build it,” Prusinowski said. “I don’t think Riverhead wants to get back into the garbage business and build their own digester.”
Prusinowski said he doesn’t believe a food waste facility should be located anywhere other than Calverton Enterprise Park, which he said has the infrastructure, including a rail spur.
CEA Energy’s proposed facility, which would have a capacity of 250 tons per day, is sized to handle food waste within a 25-mile radius of the proposed site, in accordance with state DEC guidelines, Prusinowksi said.
State law requires that food waste generated within 25 miles of an operational food waste processing facility be brought to that facility for processing, he said. “That’s where we got the leftover food from, not New York or out of state.”
Supervisor Yvette Aguiar told Prusinowski that the hearing was only about the proposed code change, not a specific proposal. The board will ask CEA Energy to attend an upcoming working session to further discuss its proposal, Aguiar said.
The ZBA again reserved its decision on the CEA appeal at its Thursday evening meeting. The adjournment, said ZBA Vice President Otto Wittmeier, was at the request of the plaintiff.
CEA presented a 100-tonne-per-day anaerobic digester to city council in 2019. At that time, CEA wanted to use city-owned land on Youngs Avenue – the 12.7-acre site of the former animal shelter and municipal waste. ease. Area residents and the Greater Calverton Civic Association have expressed concerns about the location. The CEA then began to explore possible locations in the Calverton Enterprise Park.
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