Editor’s note: This is part one of two stories covering the Ohio EPA hearing concerning a permit application to install biosolid storage ponds in Bath Township.
BATH TOWNSHIP — The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) held a public hearing June 27 to give citizens the opportunity to ask questions and testify for the official record concerning a permit application to install two biosolids storage ponds on 65.9 acres of farmland east of Byron Road.
Approximately 43 Bath Township residents and local environmentalists attended the meeting. Some of the attendees spoke on the record.
Prior to hearing testimony, Ohio EPA officials presented a brief presentation that detailed the permit-to-install application that Dovetail Energy LLC submitted May 6 to the state agency. The company, which operates an anaerobic digestion facility at 1156 Herr Road, has proposed to construct two open-air, synthetic-lined ponds that would have the capacity to store a combined 32-million gallons of biosolids until they are land applied at Ohio EPA-approved sites.
Kassie Lester, who also lives on Herr Road near the Dovetail Energy facility, stated that several members of the EPA panel had previously admitted to the fact that the proposed location of the storage ponds contains karst features. She emphasized that the karst terrain could cause damage to the synthetic liners of the two ponds, which would ultimately result in a leak that would directly affect the sole source aquifer that provides water to Springfield, Fairborn, Dayton, Bath Township and the surrounding area.
Lester pointed out that she and her neighbors have contended with noxious odors emanating from the 5-million gallon biosolids lagoon that is located at the Herr Road biodigester facility for several years. Now, the company is proposing adding two more open-air ponds that will stored a combined 32-million gallons of biosolids.
“Many of us have breathing issues because of this lagoon. You do not have to contend with the smell, but we do. We contend with the odor on a daily basis,” said Lester. “You (EPA) [are] going to consider giving a permit to install to a company that is already dealing with noxious odor issues in other areas in Ohio, which is on record. Morrow County has issued several complaints, and we will have more odor to contend with than they do. Finally, is the Ohio EPA prepared to buy all these houses if these synthetic liners fail?”
Township resident Joe Batman stated for the record that Renergy Inc., the parent company of Dovetail Energy LLC, lacks a knowledgeable background in operating biodigester facilities and is currently under contest. Batman also took issue with the fact that Township Trustee Tom Pitstick, who owns the farmland where the Herr Road biodigester facility is located, has not exercised good judgement when dealing with Renergy and applying biosolids to local farmlands.
Luke Borntrager, who lives on Herr Road, pointed out to the members of the EPA panel the possible risks of the two ponds becoming perfect breeding grounds for mosquitoes that could carry contaminates and disease to the local population. He also voiced his concerns about possible airborne particulates that could be harmful to humans as well. Borntrager expressed his dismay because no studies had been conducted pertaining to these two likely issues.
In addition, Borntrager told EPA officials that Dovetail Energy’s permit application was incomplete because the company had not listed all the water wells around the proposed location of the storage ponds, including his well, which is located 200 yards from the proposed site.
“You (EPA officials) are about to evaluate and approve or disapprove a permit application when the science has not been done,” Borntrager said. “The EPA is basically using Bath Township to start the collection of these studies. By the time we see the effects of all of this, you will be long gone from your positions. However, we residents will still be here. I believe the EPA should take that into account.”
Jeremiah Stamp, who lives in the Waterford Landing subdivision, voiced his fears about 32-million gallons of biosolids leaking into the soil and groundwater in the township. Stamp asked about the measures that the Ohio EPA had taken to prevent a near explosion event like the one at a biodigester facility in Lowell Michigan. Stamp suggested that EPA officials ask the agency’s Division of Air Pollution Control to also review the permit-to-install application and submit a report as well.
Ohio EPA representative Heather Lauer said all testimony entered on the record at the hearing will be considered, along with any comments that were submitted to the EPA by July 3. She also noted that citizens who asked questions on record would receive a written response from an EPA official when a decision is issued. Members of the EPA panel are not permitted to answer questions during the public comment section of a meeting when the residents give testimony and ask questions for the record. Those question will instead be answered in writing.
Linda Collins is a freelance writer for Greene County News.