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Moreau residents meet to discuss efforts to challenge proposed biochar facility

Residents of Moreau protesting the proposed Saratoga Biochar facility
Not Moreau
Residents of Moreau protesting the proposed Saratoga Biochar facility

A coalition of community organizations will hold a meeting tonight to discuss the embattled proposal for a Saratoga Biochar facility.

Residents in the town of Moreau have been pushing back against recent proposals to establish a biochar facility near residential areas, which opponents say would have grave environmental consequences.

The process to create biochar involves burning sewage in an absence of oxygen, which results in a fertilizer that Saratoga Biochar claims “makes restoring soil carbon, organic matter, and biology simple and easy.”

Activists claim that Saratoga Biochar would end up trucking more than 700 tons of sewage sludge through Moreau per day if the facility starts running.

Tracy Frisch is a board member of the Clean Air Action Network, founded in 2019.

“One of the things that the residents of the of the town of Moreau object to most vehemently is the trucking of this material through residential areas on a daily basis," explained Frisch. "However, the other big problem is that sewage slugde is a highly contaminated material. It always contains PFAs which are called forever chemicals because they do not break down.”

Gina LeClair is the founder of the Not Moreau Facebook page. She regularly posts updates to the account’s more than 1,500 followers.

LeClair says that residents feel misled by the town’s administration.

“Our community has shown repeatedly that they do not feel like they were treated respectfully and given the correct information on what was happening with Saratoga Biochar, and what the town board’s role in bringing them here was," LeClair said. "We do not see any benefit for our community or the communities around us for this company coming into the Moreau industrial park.”

Republican Town Supervisor Tod Kusnierz lost his bid for reelection against Moreau United candidate Jesse Fish by a nearly 3-to-1 margin this month.

Jorge Padron, a Moreau resident and father, says his family was thrust into the forefront of this conflict when they moved to Moreau nearly two years ago.

“We had no clue. When someone goes and looks for a house in the community, you know, you fall in love with a house, you fall in love with the way it looks, perhaps," said Padron. "But you don’t know what dangers are lurking within the community or what the plans are for expansion in the community or growth in the community. No one ever really researches that. Within six months we found out that within 1,200 feet a facility like this would be one or two lots away from ours. And that’s very eye opening. And so, what I would say is, it’s quite important to get involved in your community, but to attend town board meetings.”

Saratoga Biochar did not respond to a request for comment.

Padron has been an outspoken critic of the proposal, and encourages other Moreau residents to attend the 6 p.m. meeting at Moreau Community Center.

“The community can come and hear from experts, from Tracy, and also hear from what legal experts think about this topic," Padron explained. "In the past, I don’t believe there was such an interest in the past.”

Since organizations like the Clean Air Action Network caught wind of the potential community and region-wide pollution hazard, there has been an outpouring of criticism. Padron said he is grateful to organizers like Frisch for educating locals.

“The residents here in town and those nearby in neighboring towns really do want to hear what is going on, what can be a resolution at some point, what does that look like what does that mean for the folks here." Padron continued, "I’m happy that we at least have that. So that’s a marked change and the town’s ready for that and they’re all ears for it.”

LeClair says the event will enable residents to hear from experts about the risks posed by such a facility.