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Town may limit location of anaerobic digesters to EPCAL

Proposed zoning would limit the location of an anaerobic digester to the Planned Industrial Park zone, which is where the lone proposal for a such a facility currently plans to operate.

The Riverhead Town Board discussed the zoning at Thursday’s work session. The PIP zone is in the middle of the industrial core at the Enterprise Park at Calverton. 

The town’s code currently does not address digesters, which are facilities that convert food waste into energy through biochemical decomposition.

Earlier this year, a company called CEA Energy made a proposal to locate an anaerobic digester in the PIP zone at EPCAL

It was rejected by both the Town Board and the Zoning Board of Appeals on the grounds that anaerobic digesters were not mentioned anywhere in the town code.

Recently, officials have suggested that the ongoing update of the town’s comprehensive plan include uses such as anaerobic digesters and battery energy storage faciliites, which are not currently mentioned in zoning, because they didn’t exist when the zoning was drawn up.  

Councilman Bob Kern, who supports the creation of zoning for anaerobic digesters, said that 40% of the garbage is food waste.

“The anaerobic digester processes organic waste as it comes into the waste stream and gets broken down in the absence of oxygen,” said planner Matt Charters. 

He said this produces two products. One is called digestate, which is “kind of like leftovers” and the other is biogas, which can be processed and used to produce electricity, Mr. Charters said. 

Under the proposed zoning being drawn up by the town planning board, an anaerobic digester would need a special permit and site plan approval from the Town Board and all activity would be required to take place in a fully enclosed building. 

“It requires state permitting and state monitoring,” Mr. Charters said. 

The facility also would be required to be within 1,500 feet of a rail spur that’s connected to the Long Island Rail Road and it would have to include a narrative outlining the materials arriving to and from the site by rail and by roadways. 

Officials said they will consider the new zoning as part of the ongoing comprehensive plan update.