Ohio sues Renergy again over EPA violation claims

CEO, companies associated with Greene County biodigester operations named as defendants

The Ohio Attorney General has filed another lawsuit against Renergy, Inc., three organic waste processing facilities it operates, including its Dovetail facility in Bath Twp., and other associated companies for failure to comply with EPA regulations.

Filed in the Morrow County Common Pleas Court on behalf of the Ohio EPA, the lawsuit from Attorney General Dave Yost alleges that three Renergy properties, the Dovetail biodigester in Greene County, Emerald Bioenergy in Morrow County and Steamtown, which treats digestate from both Dovetail and Emerald, all failed to maintain adequate freeboard in their digestate ponds, creating a risk of overflowing.

Allegations further outlined against Dovetail Bioenergy, located at 1156 Herr Road in Bath Twp., include odor nuisance violations. Between September 2021 and April 2022, the Ohio EPA has conducted 40 odor surveys and detected odors from “mild to nuisance” levels on 19 of them, court documents say.

Additionally, Dovetail failed to report data that demonstrated pathogen reduction and inaccurately reported the amount of digestate material that was transferred and applied to land in 2021, according to the filing.

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.

The state recently entered into a settlement with Renergy over air pollution in Greene County, which required Dovetail to obtain a permit for ammonia emissions at the facility. The settlement between Renergy and the state, filed in Greene County Common Pleas Court last month, requires Renergy to obtain a “Permit-to-Install and Operate” order for its 5.5 million-gallon digestate storage lagoon, documents show.

Renergy is currently in the scientific testing phase of obtaining the permit, and is following the timeline prescribed by the EPA, company officials previously told the Dayton Daily News.

The settlement, however, did not address Dovetail’s failure to comply with “terms and conditions of wastewater permits and failure to maintain freeboard in the concrete tank” that holds the produced digestate fertilizer, the attorney general’s office said.

Renergy CEO Alex Ringler is also named as a defendant in the complaint.

“We take very seriously this complaint from Ohio EPA. We are processing the details, and we are fully committed to addressing and resolving this issue,” said Renergy spokesperson Dan Williamson.

Yost’s office asks the court to impose penalties against the companies up to $10,000 per day for each day of each violation for water pollution control law violations, and orders them to “retain an independent, third-party environmental consulting firm” to submit plans for odor mitigation, complaint response, sampling, and facilities operations to the state. The filing also asks for penalties against the Emerald facility “up to $25,000 per day” of violation for air pollution emissions.

The Dovetail biodigester continues to be the subject of a class-action lawsuit, and has also been sued jointly by the city of Fairborn and Bath Twp over digestate lagoon emissions.

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