BATH TOWNSHIP — Renergy, Inc., and Dovetail Energy committed eight violations at a Greene County biodigester according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency.
The EPA sent a notice of violation to Renergy outlining the alleged violations at the Herr Road biodigester in Bath Township and at the Emerald BioEnergy LLC facility in Morrow County.
Two alleged violations — spelled out in the NOV obtained by the Daily Herald through a public records requst — are for exceeding allowed parts per million by volume concentration of hydrogen sulfide in the digester sent to the engine and to the flare in January 2019.
Renery allegedly failed to report those two exceedances, which are two violations.
Two other alleged violations are for combusting digester gas in the engine and in the flare with heat contents of less than 500 BTU/scf (British Thermal Unit per standard cubic foot) in January and April 2019.
The final two violations occurred when Renergy/Dovetail failed to direct gas to the flare when the engine was nonoperational from June 29, 2020 through Oct. 5, 2021; and when Renergy/Dovetail shut down the flare without authorization from the permitting authority from June 29, 2020 through Oct. 5, 2021, while continuing to operate the digester.
According to the cover letter sent with the NOV, enforcement options include issuing an administrative compliance order, issuing an administrative penalty order. and bringing a judicial civil or criminal action.
The EPA, in the letter, is offering Renergy “an opportunity to confer with us about the violations alleged in the NOV.”
According to the document, the conference will give Renergy an opportunity to present information on the specific findings of violation, any efforts it has taken to comply, and the steps Renergy will take to prevent future violations.
The facility — built in 2013 — has been the subject of two lawsuits and numerous complaints from residents. The biodigester’s digestion tank produces methane that is used to generate electricity.
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.
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.
The lagoon at the Herr Road biodigester facility is the subject of a pair of lawsuits.