Fairborn schools tells Ohio EPA it has concerns over local biodigester

Fairborn City Schools has sent a letter to the Ohio EPA about a biodigester operation in nearby Bath Twp., saying the district has concerns over the odor it produces and effect it might have on students.

The letter, signed by Superintendent Gene Lolli and Board of Education President Pat McCoart, is dated March 12 and lists concerns about the Dovetail anaerobic digester on Herr Road. Anaerobic digesters are enclosed facilities in which agricultural or food waste is stored and then produces liquids and gases as the waste decomposes.

Bath Twp. and Fairborn residents who live nearby have complained about the smell for years.

“We are especially concerned about the effects of nuisance odors emanating from Dovetail upon our medically fragile students, and those students and staff with acute asthma and other respiratory challenges,” the school letter says.

Fairborn will finish construction on its new high school on Commerce Center Boulevard in 2023, which is about a mile and a half from the Dovetail facility.

Cari Oberfield, the COO of Renergy Inc., the parent company to Dovetail, called the claims in the letter from the school district “unsupported” and “simply not true.” She also said that the school district could have called the company to discuss any concerns.

“There isn’t a nuisance at Dovetail. Dovetail has been operating in this location since 2014, which is well before the school district selected this location for the new school,” Oberfield said. “If there really were a nuisance the school district wouldn’t have selected this location, or at minimum would have given us a call to discuss the issue rather than issuing an open letter.”

The school’s letter also states that the district expects students to be able to spend time outside the new high school building playing sports and other activities without being hit with “noxious odors.”

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The board concluded the letter asking the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency for recent odor samplings from the Dovetail site and that a “thorough investigation” be done to find out if Dovetail is complying with all applicable laws.

The Ohio EPA said it will respond directly to the Fairborn School district letter.

“In response to complaints filed by citizens, Ohio EPA staff have conducted multiple investigations related to the Dovetail facility. Since September of 2020, Ohio EPA has been to the facility 16 times, ” an EPA spokesman said in an emailed comment. “During the vast majority of the investigations, Ohio EPA could not corroborate the presence of odors or, if there were objectionable odors present, it was attributed to another source. With that said, there have been occasions in which staff did detect odors caused by Dovetail Energy and have notified facility personnel of the findings so they can evaluate internal processes and implement, as appropriate, strategies designed to address the issue.”

The Ohio EPA said it will continue to be actively engaged at the Dovetail Energy site to “monitor compliance and determine if further steps are necessary to address odors.”

In March of 2020, the Bath Twp. Board of Zoning Appeals ruled Renergy’s biodigester facility is not operating in accordance with its agricultural zoning, instead operating as a business more appropriate for industrial zoning. The bio-energy company has appealed that order and continues to operate today.

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