BATH TOWNSHIP – The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will host a public hearing Thursday, June 27 regarding a township biodigester facility’s permit application to install two biosolids storage ponds on prime farmland in Bath Township.
The meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. June 27 at the Wright State University Student Union Apollo Room, located at 3640 Colonel Glenn Highway. According to Ohio EPA spokesperson Heather Lauer, EPA officials will first hold a public information session, followed by a public hearing. The hearing will provide an opportunity for the public to address EPA officials and formally state their concerns about the permit-to-install application for an official record.
Dovetail Energy LLC, a subsidiary of Renergy Inc., is proposing to add two biosolids storage ponds adjacent to its biodigester facility, which is located on a portion of Township Trustee Tom Pitstick’s farm at 1156 Herr Road. Currently, the anaerobic digestion facility repurposes waste from municipal wastewater treatment plants and food manufactures and hog manure that Pitstick contributes to create renewable electricity and a Class B biosolids fertilizer.
If the EPA approves the permit, the company will build the synthetic-lined ponds on 65.9 acres of farmland currently owned by Jason Grieco and located east of Byron Road. The ponds, which will replace a 5-million-gallon lagoon at the facility, will have the capacity to store a combined total of 32 million gallons of biosolids until they are applied to nearby farm fields.
The company’s proposed expansion has drawn increased criticism from township residents who packed the township meeting room during the May 15 trustees’ meeting to voice their concerns about the permit application.
Township resident Kassie Lester, who lives on Herr Road, said she and her neighbors fear the proposed biosolids storage ponds will create added noxious odors in their neighborhood, as well as in Rona Hills and Waterford Landing subdivisions. Lester has led local efforts to encourage members of the community to attend the EPA public hearing and voice their concerns.
“The biodigester is located too close to our homes, and now, Renergy wants to build two large sludge ponds across the road from Pearl’s Fen and people’s homes on Byron Road,” Lester said.
Lester and her neighbor, Ben (Matt) Jones, have also pointed out the potential of the ponds breaching and biosolids leaking into the ground and contaminating the groundwater with heavy metals, pharmaceuticals and other chemicals from municipal sewage.
“We have one, sole source aquifer sitting under the biodigester facility, existing biosolids lagoon, and the proposed site where the two biosolids storage ponds would be constructed. If the biosolids leaked into the aquafer, they could possibly pollute many local water wells, the ground water that feeds Pearl’s Fen, and the City of Fairborn’s public water supply,” said Lester. “We need to ensure that the Ohio EPA is going to protect our environment and not pollute it.”
“There are so many inconsistencies with not only this proposed expansion, but with this biodigester facility in general. Runoff from this farm has caused a fish kill in Hebble Creek in the past, and now they want to put 32 million gallons of open-top sewage up stream on the same stretch of land,” Jones added.
Township resident Joe Batman said he shares many of the same concerns that Lester and Jones have, and has a list of questions to ask EPA officials on Thursday.
“Renergy is proposing to replace the existing 5-million-gallon lagoon with two ponds that will have the capacity to store 32 million gallons of biosolids. That would be a considerable increase of stored biosolids in our township,” Batman said. “I want to know if there is an ongoing problem with the existing lagoon as well. Why is the company replacing the lagoon?”
Batman also pointed out that approximately 40 tanker trucks haul sludge to the biodigester facility almost daily. Yet, this sludge is not tested for any hazardous materials before being dumped on site.
Township resident Kathy Reeves, who lives on Herr Road near the biodigester facility, wants to know what type of testing is conducted at the facility on a regular basis, and who performs those tests.
“They talk about testing, but no one actually releases any findings or test results to the public,” Reeves said. “I have been told that Renergy conducts their own testing. Why would the company regulate and monitor its own facility? Any testing and monitoring should be done by the EPA or an outside source.”
Township resident Michelle Clements-Pitstick also cited a list of concerns she has about the proposed biosolids storage ponds, including the unknown health risks, air quality and safety issues could arise from the open-top ponds.
“Owners of swimming pools are required to have a fence around the pools for apparent safety reasons, but these ponds, which hold millions of gallons of biosolids, are not required to have any fencing or barriers around them,” Clements-Pitstick said.
Township Trustee Steve Ross said the board of trustees are encouraging township residents to attend the EPA public hearing as well.
“The board of trustees has submitted a list of questions to EPA officials, and we expect to receive answers to our questions either at the hearing or after further scientific review,” Ross said during a recent interview.
The Ohio EPA will also accept written comments regarding the permit application through July 3. Anyone can submit comments or a request to be place on the mailing list for information by writing to Ohio EPA-DSW, Permits Processing Unit, P.O. Box 1049, Columbus, Ohio 43216-1049 or email [email protected]
Linda Collins is a freelance writer for Greene County News.