FAIRBORN — Fairborn and Bath Township residents’ complaints about the Herr Road biodigester have been heard and the owner has agreed to permanently close it down.
Attorney General Dave Yost on Wednesday announced that Renergy will cease operations at the organic waste treatment facility which has been subject to multiple lawsuits in addition to myriad complaints of foul odors.
“Renergy’s shutdown will eliminate both the environmental problems in this case and the olfactory nuisance that the site has become,” Yost said in a release. “I am asking the court to approve our proposed order so Renergy can move swiftly and properly with a safe cleanup.”
The order — filed as a joint motion in Greene County Common Pleas Court — asks the court to require Renergy to:
— Stop accepting feedstock and waste by Oct. 1.
— Empty the storage tank by Dec. 15.
— Empty and clean all equipment by Jan. 15, 2024.
— Submit documentation of the emptying and cleaning by Jan. 30, 2024.
— Request termination of all permits and certify the facility is permanently shut down by Jan. 31, 2024.
The filing also asks the court to impose an additional $25,000 in penalties (for a total of $100,000 in penalties), to be suspended if Renergy complies with the requirements. Renergy has agreed to comply with all requirements and close the facility.
The state, on behalf of the Ohio EPA, recently sued Renergy for air and water pollution violations. According to the attorney general, the air pollution violations had been addressed, but the water pollution persisted. The company has also been accused of illegally accepting and storing excessive organic waste.
The facility in Greene County is one of two run by Renergy, the second being in Morrow County. These biodigesters use bacteria to treat manure and other organic materials, which generates methane to be used in electricity production. The decomposition process creates a liquid runoff which is stored in a third Renergy site and used for agricultural purposes.
Yost’s announcement was welcomed news for a group of people that has been fighting for changes to be made to this facility for years. The Bath Biodigester Concerned Citizens groups is made up of nearly 1,000 residents who said they had to deal with years of a horrible smell around their homes. Donnie Smith told WDTN he is excited to start living a normal life again.
“Our kids can finally go outside and play without smelling poop all day long,” Smith said. “We can finally open our windows up during nice days outside instead of having our AC on. So I’m happy about that.”
The group has led a grassroots effort to get Renergy to make changes that would mitigate the smell. They just wanted the company to put a cover over the biodigester to contain the smell. Although this announcement is seen as a win for them, they are still going to push lawmakers to have better oversight of these facilities. Sarah Fulton told WDTN that she hopes state legislators will pass HB 193, which would put additional requirements these facilities.
“This is definitely important for us and our community, but this exists in other areas of the state and there is legislation in committee right now that we are hopeful can protect other communities from having to rally together like this and fight on an individual community basis,” she said. “And I’d really like to see that legislation move through committee so that other communities are protected from having to go through what we’ve been through over the last six years.”
Contact Ethan Charles at 937-502-4532. Our partners at WDTN contributed to this story.