Montgomery County

Residents criticize plans for waste-to-fertilizer plant

Canadian company seeks to process sewage treatment waste
Lystek International biomass processing plant in Fairfield, California, is similar to proposed plant.
Lystek International biomass processing plant in Fairfield, California, is similar to proposed plant.

GLEN — Town residents turned out Thursday night mainly to criticize plans for a bio-waste-to-fertilizer plant in the Glen Canal View Business Park on Route 5S.

The town Planning Board heard about 45 minutes of sometimes-emotional public comment, with many asking questions about potential impacts from the new facility that didn’t get immediate answers. Board Chairman John Thomas noted that Ontario-based Lystek International has yet to apply for the special permit it will need from the Planning Board in order to build the plant, though the board was willing to hear comments about it.

The town has made several preliminary moves toward approving the facility, including a zoning change approved by the Town Board earlier this month that broadened the allowable uses in the mostly vacant 300-acre industrial park.

On Thursday, the Planning Board approved a land subdivision that could allow Lystek to buy a roughly 5-acre lot in the park, and the board voted to declare itself lead agency for the environmental review on the project, pending acceptance of that designation by other government agencies.

“I urge you to take your time, evaluate further and consider what will happen down the road and (Montgomery County)’s ability to oversee it,” said Town Historian Steven Helmin, a former member of the Town Board.

Lystek takes the dried solid waste from municipal sewage treatment plants within a roughly 150-mile radius of its plants and uses a proprietary micro-biological process to break down harmful bacteria in the waste. The processed material is a fertilizer that is sold to farmers. The company has eight plants in Canada and one in California.

The Fultonville Village Board, meanwhile, held an emergency meeting Thursday evening to approve a motion declaring that the village should have a say over which customers get to connect to the village’s sewage treatment plant, as Lystek plans to do.

“On my behalf, I’ve done my research, and it will never have my vote for a company like this,” said village Trustee Chad Quakenbush, who stipulated he was only speaking at the town meeting for himself, not the Village Board.

Lystek is expected to file an application to build its facility in January.

“Next month, we’ll have a forum to present,” said Jim Belcastro, the business development manager for Lystek’s eastern U.S. operations. He sat in the audience and took notes at Thursday’s meeting but did not speak while residents criticized the plans.

“We’ll look forward to the folks from Lystek answering your questions,” Thomas told residents in attendance.

Thomas, who will become town supervisor on Jan. 1, noted the company has already conducted two informational meetings in the town. Thomas is among several town officials who have said they believe Lystek’s process is safe. A delegation from the town visited one of the firm’s Ontario plants in the fall.

“These guys have been totally above-board,” Thomas said.

The plant would create 10-20 permanent jobs, in addition to temporary construction jobs, according to preliminary estimates. The anticipated investment is about $12 million. The rural town’s total tax base is about $85 million.

“They would be the largest taxpayers in town,” Thomas said.

But the company could seek economic development tax breaks that would reduce that tax bill, though both the company and the Montgomery County Business Development Center said no decision on tax breaks has been made.

Some critics, however, assume breaks are forthcoming.

“This company is not even from our country. Why are we doing corporate welfare? This is outrageous,” said Fultonville resident Karen Chaplin.

The plant would mean about 20 additional trucks coming to the area, which some residents said is too many for Fultonville, which already has a busy Thruway exit with a truck stop, and tractor-trailers regularly coming and going from large distribution centers in Johnstown to the north and the town of Florida to the east. Another regional distribution center now under construction in Florida, for Dollar General, is likely to mean more traffic.

“Twenty more trucks on top of what we already have? When does it stop?” asked Fultonville resident Stella Gittle.

Thomas said he expects the company to have filed its application in time for the Planning Board’s Jan. 18 meeting, and he said he expects a formal public hearing on the permit application to be held at the board’s February meeting, with any decision likely not made until March.

Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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