BATH TOWNSHIP — Residents of Bath Township and Fairborn gathered Wednesday to express their frustration over the continued operation of a biosolid digester in Bath Township.
The facility, which among other things processes human feces for fertilizer, has continued operations virtually unimpeded despite being issued a cease and desist order in September 2019.
Protesters expressed health concerns over the unceremoniously named “poop farm,” citing the horrible smell that drifts into residential areas of Fairborn. Bradley Martin, who organized the demonstration, lives in Waterford Landing and has smelled the evidence for himself.
“Waterford gets a lot of the smell,” he said. “We have a lot of people who suffer respiratory or gastrointestinal issues.”
Additionally, the plant sits on top of the aquifer that runs under almost the entirety of Greene County. Residents are concerned that the chemicals processed at the biodigester plant may leak out of their holding ponds and seep into the area’s water supply.
“If Renergy was behaving in good faith, they would be pasteurizing the waste and covering ponds like facilities in other parts of the state,” Martin said.
The problem isn’t just in the air. The Dovetail Energy biodigester, operated by Renergy, Inc., was built on a 14.7-acre parcel of land on Trustee Tom Pitstick’s farm. The biodigester is considered an industrial operation by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. Pitstick’s farm, however, is zoned for agriculture – and reaps the tax benefits thereof.
This zoning violation was first brought to the fore by Bath Township Trustee Kassie Lester in January 2018. After an independent zoning inspector confirmed this violation, the county prosecutor’s office issued cease-and-desist letters to both Renergy and Pitstick. However, the operation there has not ceased almost a year later. Protesters consider this refusal to comply with the cease-and-desist a breach of trust by the board.
An official statement from the July 29 Bath Township trustees meeting reads, “To date Dovetail and Pitstick have failed to obtain a stay of execution of the zoning inspector’s decision and continue to operate. Accordingly, Bath Township, in its ongoing effort to enforce compliance with the Zoning Resolution, filed a motion to show cause as to why the Dovetail and Pitstick (sic) should not be held in contempt of court for failing to abide by the zoning inspector’s decision.”
Residents were met by counter-protesters who showed up in support of Pitstick and the continued use of the biodigester. Among them were Renergy employees and farmers who benefit from the biodigester’s operations.
Karen Stewart-Linkhart said Renergy delivers a good project, and has been very accommodating to their family’s environmental concerns.
“There were things that we didn’t like, but they were very amenable to the changes we needed made,” she said. “And they did so at great cost to them.”
Many counter-protesters carried signs in support of the clean energy benefits of the biosolid digester. According to Renergy’s website, its plants produce enough electricity to power 2,000 homes. However, some protesters on the other side wouldn’t disagree with those benefits.
“They argue it’s about clean energy,” Martin said. “Frankly, a lot of us here are for that sort of thing. We’re not anti-farmer. We’re not anti-green energy. We just want it done right.”
Research on the safety of biosolids is inconclusive. While the EPA has identified biosolids as a nutrient-rich substance that can be used as an effective fertilizer, the US Geological Survey has found harmful pollutants in biosolids even after treatment, including pharmaceuticals, steroids, and flame retardants.
Reach London Bishop at (937) 502-4532
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