Editor’s note: This is the first story of a three-part series highlighting use of biosolids in Bath Township and resident concerns.
BATH TOWNSHIP — The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is hosting a public hearing next week regarding a permit application to expand operations at a Bath Township farm where renewable energy is produced.
The hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, March 22 at Greene County Career Center, 2960 W. Enon Road in Xenia. At that time, EPA officials will provide information regarding the proposed upgrades and improvements at the Dovetail Energy LLC Anaerobic Digestion Facility, located at 1146 Herr Road in the township. Members of the public will have an opportunity to comment.
“The hearing is one part of the approval process, and the EPA has already reviewed all of the engineering, construction and operating plans. The EPA also advertised locally a 30-day comment period about the permit to install and received enough requests to merit a hearing,” said Bath Township Trustee Tom Pitstick, who leases the farmland to Renergy Inc., the parent company of Dovetail Energy LLC.
According to Pitstick, the 14.7-acre, Class B biosolids application site processes sewage sludge trucked from wastewater treatment facilities in Greene and Butler counties, including Fairborn, Xenia and Yellow Springs, into renewable energy to power the farm and approximately 800 homes. The digester plant, which takes up about five acres at the site, also produces a concentrated organic fertilizer byproduct that is spread on approximately 2,200 acres of farmland in close vicinity to the digester.
Alexander Ringler, chief executive officer at Renergy Inc., said the biosolids digester facility diverts approximately 60,000 tons of organic waste from a local landfill every year and displaces roughly 5,300 tons of carbon dioxide annually.
“Local municipalities request to use our service because we provide responsible and sustainable waste recycling. This would otherwise be treated wastewater that would be pumped back into local waterways,” Ringler said via email.
Currently, the fertilizer is produce in liquid form. However, EPA approval of the permit application would allow Dovetail Energy LLC to further process the material into a dry fertilizer and water for irrigation.
“Our plan is to implement pasteurization, material separation technology, energy generation upgrades and advanced odor control technology,” said Ringler. “The pasteurization process is in line with the EPA regulations that recognize pasteurization as an approved process to further reduce pathogens, which results in an EPA compliant Class A fertilizer.”
However, the permit application has raised many concerns for Ron and Kassie Lester, who reside on the 700 block of Herr Road and other township residents who live adjacent to the farm. The group plans to attend the public hearing to voice their opposing views. Among their complaints are the nuisance odors of transported and spreading biosolids, as well as the lasting effects the waste could have on residents’ drinking water, health and safety.
Kassie Lester said she first took issue with the fact the construction of the anaerobic digestion facility commenced in 2013, prior to the issuance of the Ohio EPA Permit to Install in January 2014. In addition, the Ohio EPA Authorization to Discharge under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, which allows the facility to discharge storm water into Hebble Creek, had an effective date of April 1, 2014.
“According to the Ohio EPA, a public notice hearing was to take place prior to the issuance of the NPDES permit. No public hearing was ever offered to the residents in this area,” Lester said. “Most residents had no clue about what this facility was going to be. We thought it was a new silo for the hog operation that is located at this property, not a wastewater treatment plant.”
According to Pitstick, the family-run farm partnered with Renergy Inc. to build the Dovetail digester to eliminate waste, provide green energy and produce an organic fertilizer that replenishes the soil naturally.
“Through all this, we strive to be good stewards of the land and are committed to protecting it for future generations,” said Pitstick.
Pitstick is encouraging community members to attend an open house at the Dovetail Energy LLC Anaerobic Digestion Facility 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, March 17.
“Please stop by for a tour and get answers to any questions you might have,” Pitstick said.
Linda Collins is a freelance reporter for the Fairborn Daily Herald.