MOREAU, N.Y. (NEWS10) – It’s taken months of resident pushback, information spread and more, and it’s still not done. This week, another turn has been taken in the battle over a proposed fertilizer plant in the town of Moreau.
On Monday night, the Town of Moreau Planning Board made a determination to delay a vote on whether to allow Northeastern Biochar to build its first-ever facility at the largely-vacant Moreau Industrial Park. The board will now have an additional 45 days to review the company’s hundreds of pages of documentation – something pushed for over the course of the last few months by one member of the board.
“I remain deeply concerned that the board has not given due consideration to the impacts of this project on our community,” wrote Moreau Planning Board member Ann Purdue, in part of a 3-page statement that she read to the board and meeting attendees on Monday night. “It is the first of its kind – to be built and operated by a company that has never built or operated a solid waste facility of any kind.”
That’s true. Northeastern Biochar CEO Raymond Apy came to the town of Moreau in late 2021, seeking to found Saratoga Biochar as the second occupant of Moreau Industrial Complex. The plant would intake biosolids – solid waste leftover from work at wastewater treatment plants – from a large swath of the northeast, including parts of New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Connecticut. Those biosolids would be processed at Saratoga Biochar, and turned into fertilizer to be sold both locally and nationally.
Much community concern has revolved around the use of those biosolids, which can contain harmful PFOA contaminants. In a NEWS10 interview in April, Apy and co-founder Bryce Meeker described some of the steps that the plant would take to safely remove toxins from the biosolid base without harming the environment. The process of drying biosolids creates synthesis gas, which is where PFOAs and sulfur dioxide go. The company says that a process is in place for safely burning that gas.
In her statement to the board on Monday, Purdue raised issue with the plans that had been presented, recalling inconsistencies in plans that were first submitted in late 2021. At that point, some members of the board treated questions over environmental impact as being resolved, pointing to DEC permits which give license to whatever degree of environmental impact Saratoga Biochar would reportedly have. In May, Purdue spoke again.
“I made a motion to rescind the prior SEQR determination based on new information that became evident following the Board’s determination in March. Specifically, the failure of the applicant to disclose on its EAF that it would be permitted to emit up to 100 tons of nitrogen dioxides, that it would store liquid nitrogen on site, that DEC would require higher stacks in order to better disperse air contaminants for the facility, potential fire risks associated with storage of biochar on site. That motion failed,” she wrote.
At that same meeting, Purdue made a second motion to hire an independent expert to research the impact of the site, which was approved. However, in June, other board members spoke against the necessity of the work.
All of that history, summarized on Monday, has led to another 45 days granted for Moreau’s planning board to further research the footprint that the biochar plant could leave. They weren’t alone.
As of Wednesday, Facebook page “Not Moreau” has 385 followers. A Facebook post was made by the page earlier Monday for those planning to attend. It said that attendees would not be given time to speak, but that those attending would be sending a message.
“Not Moreau” page operator Gina LeClair did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday. In previous NEWS10 reporting, LeClair, a former Moreau Town Board member, described concerns from neighbors who live on the road that Saratoga Biochar would use for 20 trucks daily to travel. Traffic, questions around PFOA safety and more continue to circulate among members of the community.
“Yeah, it’s a little frustrating, but we’re not going to fight it,” said Apy on Wednesday. “It is what it is. We’re going to work with the town of Moreau in every way that we can to move forward.”
The original proposal revolved around a goal to start construction on Saratoga Biochar sometime this summer.