Biodigester owner facing allegations from EPA


CHICAGO — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued a notice of violation to Renergy, Inc., alleging permit violations at its Dovetail Energy facility in Greene County and Emerald BioEnergy LLC facility in Morrow County.

Both facilities operate under permits issued by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, through the Ohio State Implementation Plan, and have anaerobic digesters, which accept organic wastes to create biogas for energy or disposal. The alleged violations include excess emissions from the flare and engine operations, improper operation of the facility engines, improper operation of the facility flares, and the failure to report all parameters required by facility permits.

According to a release from the EPA, the agency has several enforcement options to address the alleged violations, including administrative or judicial civil action. A copy of the notice of violation has been requested by the Daily Herald.

The Greene County biodigester — built in 2013 — has been the subject of two lawsuits and numerous complaints from residents.

In April, a lawsuit filed by the State of Ohio against Renergy and Dovetail energy alleged that the two entities were allowing the organic waste processing facility on Herr Road to emit ammonia without a permit.

The biodigester’s digestion tank produces methane that is used to generate electricity. According to the lawsuit, the plant’s operations result in the production of waste sludge, called digestate, that is stored “initially in a concrete tank and ultimately land applied by area farms as fertilizer.”

The lawsuit, filed at the written request of the state’s director of environmental protection, claimed that the plant initially accepted only agricultural waste, but sometime between it’s opening and February 2018, “the company started introducing non-agricultural organic wastes into its process.” While pollutant permits for some aspects of the operations have been obtained, the lawsuit said “the company failed to obtain the required permit for the digestate storage tank at the time it started introducing non-agricultural organic wastes into the process and thus became subject to regulation.”

That case was settled with a consent order and final judgment entry giving Renergy Inc., and Dovetail Energy, LLC 60 days to submit a “Permit to Install and Operate” application for biodigester’s lagoon where digestate from the biodigester process is stored. They had 180 days (or longer if approved by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency) to complete installation and compliance of all measures in the PTIO.

A day before the lawsuit was filed, Dovetail Energy and Renergy received a notice of violation from the EPA, which performed a routine odor survey and to monitor the level of effluent in the storage tank. The notice, obtained by the Daily Herald, indicates that the storage tank was “observed to be at the top of the tank wall” while the permit to install requires one foot of freeboard.

The EPA requested the the facility immediately begin removing material from the tank and to submit daily reports that include freeboard (feet) available in the storage tank; gallons of material stored in the storage tank; gallons of material removed from the digester and added to the storage tank; and gallons of material removed from the storage tank, among other items.

Three days after the state lawsuit was filed, the City of Fairborn and Bath Township filed a federal lawsuit against Renergy and Dovetail and the Ohio and United States environmental protection agencies.

The lawsuit, filed in the Southern District court in Dayton, alleges that Renergy and Dovetail violated the federal Clean Air Act by allowing the biodigester to emit significant quantities of ammonia without applying for and obtaining an air pollution permit, without controlling the ammonia emissions with the best available technology, and without following the mandates of Ohio’s air toxics law. Ammonia is an air toxic contaminant in Ohio.

The USEPA and Ohio EPA are named as defendants for allegedly failing to enforce the Clean Air Act and Ohio’s air pollution laws by allowing Renergy and Dovetail to operate a digestate lagoon without first obtaining an air permit that includes air toxics protections and best available technology requirements.

Prior to filing its lawsuit, Fairborn and Bath Township sent USEPA, Ohio EPA, Renergy and Dovetail a letter detailing the violations of the federal and state air laws and provided 60 days to try and work out a resolution, according to a press release from Fairborn.

In response to multiple odor complaints from residents, the township has also attempted to regulate the biodigester through zoning controls. But in January the Ohio Second District Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling that the biodigester is a public utility and is exempt from zoning regulations.

Renergy spokesperson Dan Williamson said the company had no comment on the latest notice of violation.

File photo The lagoon at the Herr Road biodigester facility is the subject of a pair of lawsuits and now violations alleged by the EPA. photo The lagoon at the Herr Road biodigester facility is the subject of a pair of lawsuits and now violations alleged by the EPA.

By Scott Halasz

[email protected]

Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.

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