Fairborn, Bath Twp. join Ohio AG in filing lawsuit against biodigester facility

Days after the Ohio Attorney General filed a lawsuit against Renergy Inc. and Dovetail Energy in Bath Twp., the city of Fairborn and Bath Twp. filed a federal lawsuit against the companies, as well as the Ohio and U.S. Environmental Protection Agencies, alleging violations of the Clean Air Act.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. Southern District of Ohio Court in Dayton, alleges that Renergy and Dovetail have allowed a lagoon to emit “significant quantities” of ammonia from a 5.5 million-gallon digestate lagoon and have failed to obtain an air pollution permit. The city also sued the U.S. and Ohio EPA, claiming the agencies failed to enforce the Clean Air Act by allowing the companies to operate the lagoon without an air permit, the city said Tuesday.

Renergy and Dovetail own and manage the biodigester in Bath Twp. located between Fairborn and Yellow Springs. The biodigester uses an anaerobic digestion process to break down manure and food waste into fertilizer and methane gas to produce electricity. It was built in 2013-2014.

Representatives of Renergy declined to comment.

The facility at 1156 Herr Road has been a source of controversy for years, as neighbors have complained of odors, and Bath Twp. officials have pursued zoning controls.

Prior to filing the lawsuit, Fairborn and Bath Twp. sent the U.S. EPA, the Ohio EPA, Renergy and Dovetail a letter detailing alleged violations of the federal and state laws and providing 60 days to try and work out a resolution. No meeting to resolve the issues occurred, Fairborn officials said.

“We gave all involved an opportunity to discuss the issues with us in an attempt to resolve the matter without litigation. No one took the opportunity,” Fairborn City Manager Rob Anderson said. “We take the health and safety of our citizens seriously, and we could not stand by while this issue continued unaddressed and unabated.”

The city’s lawsuit comes just days after the state of Ohio filed suit against Renergy and Dovetail at the Ohio EPA’s request. The state says the facility stores digestate in an uncovered concrete tank, with “unpermitted emissions of ammonia,” which is classified as an “air contaminant” in Ohio from Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost’s office.

The day before the state filed its lawsuit, the Ohio EPA issued a notice of violation to Dovetail and Renergy for having too much digestate in the lagoon. During a visit on April 14, 2022, material in the storage tank was observed to be at the top of the concrete tank wall, according to the notice. Storage tanks should have at least one foot of distance, or freeboard, between the sludge in the lagoon and the top of the container.

The attorney general’s lawsuit seeks civil penalties in excess of $25,000, as well as requirements that the companies employ emissions controls and obtain an Ohio EPA permit to regulate them.

In January, the Ohio Second District Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Renergy, upholding a ruling that the Dovetail biodigester is a public utility, exempt from township zoning regulations.

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