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Developer reiterates desire for $15m Lowville biodigester

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LOWVILLE — Officials from a Florida-based biogas company on Wednesday reiterated their desire to site a $15 million manure and food-waste digester just south of the village.

“This is a sustainability project for farmers and Kraft,” Paul Toretta, CEO of CH4 Biogas, told Lowville town councilman and about 20 other local leaders, farmers and residents Wednesday.

The company has secured a purchase option on land between Route 12 and Markowski Road and is proposing to convert manure trucked from a dozen or so area farms and food waste — most of it piped from the Kraft Foods cream cheese plant on Utica Boulevard — into methane gas. The gas would then be piped back to Kraft and burned on-site for heat and lower-cost electricity at the plant, which employs about 300 people, while the processed waste would be returned to the farms.

The pasteurization and digestion process removes nearly all the stench from the manure, leaving farmers with a more palatable product to spread on their fields, company officials said. They cited positive results at Synergy Biomass, a similar facility CH4 Biogas completed last year on a large farm in Wyoming County.

“If you ask the farm, the odors went way down,” Mr. Toretta said.

Mr. Toretta said his company doesn’t plan to sign any agreements with Kraft and local farmers or seek easements from landowners until ensuring there is adequate community support for the project.

It will need to get started by early next spring, since a federal tax credit is due to expire at the end of 2013, he said.

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