Ohio EPA seeks legal action against Dovetail, Renergy over biodigester pollution

Greene County energy facility has been the source of years of resident complaints over odors

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has referred Renergy, Inc., and Dovetail Bioenergy in Greene County’s Bath Twp. to the Ohio Attorney General for legal action, citing violations of Ohio’s air and water pollution laws.

The Ohio EPA requested initiation of “necessary legal and/or equitable civil actions,” and penalties regarding “nuisance odor violations” issued against Dovetail for violations of Ohio law regarding air and water pollution, as well as violations of its own “Permit to Install and Operate,” issued in 2018.

“I respectfully request that this referral result in the filing of a civil complaint in the appropriate court if efforts on your part to resolve this matter through negotiation fail,” Ohio EPA Director Ann Vogel wrote to Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost on Aug. 3.

A notice of violation issued to the company the same day said that the Ohio EPA and the Regional Air Pollution Control Agency, which monitors six counties in southwest Ohio, had received more than 50 odor complaints between July 18 and Aug. 2, at 1156 Herr Road in Bath Twp. The agencies then documented odors emanating from the facility on eight of those 16 days.

The Notice of Violation itself requires Renergy to submit to Ohio EPA and RAPCA a compliance plan for how the company plans to address these violations, though this does not preclude them from taking legal action in the meantime, the document says.

The Dovetail biodigester, operated by Renergy, uses an anaerobic process to break down food waste and manure into fertilizer and methane gas for electricity in Greene County. The facility has been a source of controversy for years, as neighbors have complained of odors, and Bath Twp. officials have pursued zoning controls.

Renergy is already embroiled in several ongoing legal disputes in regards to its facilities across the state of Ohio, which include Dovetail, Emerald Bioenergy in Morrow County, and Steamtown, near Columbus.

The state settled with Renergy in a separate lawsuit over air pollution in Greene County Common Pleas Court last year, which required Dovetail to obtain a permit for ammonia emissions specifically for a 5.5-million gallon digestate lagoon.

Residents of Fairborn and Bath Twp. filed a class-action lawsuit against the company in 2020, which is still ongoing. Fairborn and Bath Twp. also filed a lawsuit in April 2022 against the state and federal EPA, as well as Renergy. This April, a federal judge threw out the suit against the two government agencies, but allowed the suit against Renergy to continue.

The Ohio Attorney General’s office confirmed Monday they had received the referral, but offered no further comment.

Renergy officials did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

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