Montgomery County

Biowaste company makes its case in Glen

Public hearing to be held on Feb. 15, decision in March
The Lystek biomass processing plant in Fairfield, Calif., is similar to what is being proposed in the town of Glen.
The Lystek biomass processing plant in Fairfield, Calif., is similar to what is being proposed in the town of Glen.

GLEN — The Canadian company seeking to build a sewage waste-to-fertilizer plant in central Montgomery County made its case to the town Planning Board and about 60 sometimes-hostile residents at a meeting Thursday night.

“We’re talking about making a positive use of something that has a lot of beneficial characteristics,” said Frederick Mosher, the chief technology officer for Lystek International Ltd. of Cambridge, Ontario. “We believe very strongly in what we do.”

The company has applied for a town special permit to build a plant at the Glen Canal View Business Park, where sludge residue from municipal sewage treatment plants would be brought. The plant would convert it, through heating and chemical processes, into a commercial agricultural fertilizer. It expects to be able to accept as much as 4,000 tons of biowaste per week.

Despite much speculation in the community, Lystek officials said they have no plans to accept the whey produced by the Fage Greek yogurt plant in Johnstown, the volume of which has caused problems for the Gloversville-Johnstown waste water treatment plant.

While most town leaders support the $12 million project for what is a largely vacant industrial park on Route 5S, a number of residents have expressed opposition to the concept, and a number questioned Lystek officials aggressively during a presentation and question session that lasted nearly 90 minutes.

Citizens Against Local Landfills Inc., a citizen group formed in 1998 when a regional landfill was proposed on roughly the same site, is considering reactivating and will hold a general membership drive at 7 p.m. Monday at 13 Main St., the former Pilgrim Holiness Church, in Fultonville.

“We plan to look at and hear how our membership thinks about it,” said Stephen Helmin, a group member and former Glen Town Board member. “Hopefully we get a good turnout.”

Helmin, who was part of a town delegation that visited one of the company’s plants in Ontario in November, said he noticed some odor near the “bladder” where finished fertilizer is stored, and said he was concerned that the odor might be stronger in the summer.

“Right now, as we stand, I’ve got a lot of questions,” said Bonnie Couture, vice president of the Fonda-Fultonville Board of Education. She was concerned that having the community host such a plant would hurt the school district’s reputation.

The company says the Fultonville location makes sense because of the number of small- to medium-sized sewage treatment systems within a 150-mile radius, and the number of farms that are potential fertilizer customers within 40 or 50 miles. The treatment residues often go to landfills after being dewatered, though some is incinerated.

Lystek’s plant would charge for accepting the waste, but would then sell the fertilizer produced commercially.

“We happen to be in a business that is not well understood, and there is a lot of misinformation about it,” said Kevin Litwiller, Lystek’s director of marketing and communications.

Lystek, which formed in 2000, has 10 plants in Canada and one in Fairfield, California. That plant, in the northern reaches of the San Francisco Bay region, this week won a Governor’s Environmental and Economic Award from the state of California for sustainable practices.

The company said a Glen plant would have 10 to 15 employees, and its total investment would be about $12 million. It’s likely to seek economic development tax breaks from the Montgomery County Industrial Development Agency, which could reduce its tax payments in the first few years.

“Lystek will be asking for the standard benefits that the IDA provides,” said George Bevington, a former manager of the Gloversville-Johnstown sewage treatment plant who is a Lystek consultant.

The company’s special permit application was completed on Friday. Town Planning Board Chairman Fred Casler said a formal public hearing on the application will take place at the Feb. 15 Planning Board meeting, which could allow a decision to be made in March.

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

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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