BATH TOWNSHIP — Residents of Bath Township and Fairborn who have long voiced concerns over the biodigester facility on Herr Road have written a letter to local government entities demanding a meeting.
In a letter addressed to the Greene County Board of County Commissioners, the City of Fairborn and Fairborn City Schools, the group Bath Township Concerned Citizens requested that the three convene an emergency meeting to discuss the issue.
The letter concerns a long-disputed biodigester facility on the 14.7 acres of a farm owned by Bath Township Trustee Tom Pitstick. The biodigester is owned by Dovetail Energy LLC, and run by Renergy, Inc., which is headquartered in Morrow County, Ohio.
In their letter, residents allege that continued operation of the facility will lead to a “mass exodus” from the Fairborn area, health problems, and reduced property values. Residents also noted the proximity of the smell to the proposed location of Fairborn High School, as well as Pearl’s Fen.
“We will support elected officials that put the welfare of their constituents as a priority and don’t hide behind the statement ‘it’s not in my jurisdiction.’ We have provided a clear path to the 3 organizations where they could show their concerns without crossing any legal boundaries,” the letter reads.
County commissioners and the Fairborn City Council both responded to the letter this week, indicating that such a meeting would not happen. Both entities cited ongoing legal proceedings, but were open to discussing the matter at a later time.
Greene County administrator Brandon Huddleston said he has consulted with the Greene County Prosecutor’s Office and found that the county has no authority in the matter. However, the commissioners may examine the issue further once the legal proceedings have concluded.
“The commissioners support the actions that the township has taken at this point,” he said. “I encourage people to exercise a little patience. We could certainly have conversations with the township trustees once the court cases are determined.”
“The commissioners remain absolutely concerned about our citizens and environment,” Huddleston continued. “They are not hiding behind any statement of jurisdiction.”
The city of Fairborn issued a public statement:
“The health, safety, and well-being of our community is paramount, and we will continue to advocate for our residents when we are able, and where we have the appropriate legal authority to do so,” the city said. “Unfortunately, the biodigester is located outside of Fairborn and our legal jurisdiction. However, the City fully supports the efforts of Bath Township in upholding zoning codes and regulations, and we remain committed to working with Bath Township, Greene County, Renergy, and others to find a solution to the ongoing issues regarding the biodigester.”
Additionally, residents say that if the biodigester continues to operate, Dovetail will “resubmit their plans to install a 32 million gallon lagoon on Byron Road,” according to the letter, a claim that Cari Oberfield, Renergy’s Chief Operations Officer, says is untrue.
“Almost nothing in the statement given to the press and distributed on social media is accurate,” Oberfield said in a statement. “Among numerous other things, Dovetail has no current plans to build additional ponds. The allegations being made are not true, nor do they speak for the community at large — but rather a few individuals who are acting in their own individual interest, to the detriment of the greater good of our environment, public health, and the sustainability of Southwest Ohio.”
Residents filed a class-action lawsuit against Pitstick and Dovetail in December 2020, citing the alleged unpleasant smell coming off the property. Residents allege that the smell has affected residents in neighborhoods as far away as Rona Hills and Waterford Landing, posed respiratory health risks, and prevented residents from the full enjoyment of their property.
Bath Township is engaged in several other lawsuits directly or in reference to the biodigester facility. These cases are currently in litigation.
Fairborn councilwoman Tana Stanton said that the city council is keenly aware of citizens’ concerns.
“We’re constantly watching the situation,” she said.
During their Feb. 15 meeting, council members discussed writing a letter of concern to the Ohio EPA about the Bath Township biodigester.
“In my opinion, writing a letter is the least we can do,” Stanton said in an interview Thursday.
Renergy has undergone a similar legal battle with Emerald Bioenergy, a similar facility in Morrow County, in which a court ruled in favor of their continued operation. Stanton had previously submitted public comments to the EPA regarding Renergy’s operation of that facility.
“Many residents of our city and township have raised concerns about 1) the smell affecting their quality of life and property values, 2) the operation not following the guidelines for its zoning, 3) the unknown impact on water quality. I have concerns with how this company operates, and ask the EPA to listen to citizen concerns regarding Renergy,” Stanton wrote.
Renergy maintains that the biodigester is both operating legally and environmentally friendly.
“The biodigester is conserving landfill space, producing renewable energy, and providing waste management options that are sustainable,” Oberfield said. “Instead of allowing food to decompose in a landfill, or manure to be used ineffectively, Renergy responsibly puts it to work in a closed-loop system that recycles beneficial resources back to the environment.”
In 2019, the Dovetail biodigester facility was found in violation of the Ohio Revised Code and Bath Township Zoning Resolution. Dovetail and Pitstick have since appealed that ruling.
Reach London Bishop at 937-502-4532 or follow @LBishopFDH on Twitter.