Renergy ordered to close biodigester facility in Greene County

After years of citizen complaints and EPA violations, the Dovetail biodigester in Greene County will be shut down, potentially bringing an end to a decade-long fight between parent company Renergy and the surrounding community.

Renergy agreed to shut down the digester facility, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced Wednesday.

The shutdown comes at the end of a particularly smelly summer, local residents say.

“It has been so bad,” Gary Goldblatt, who lives nearby, said of the smell Wednesday. “Especially on cool, kind of humid nights we’ve had for the last week or two. Around 9 at night, it hits you like a brick to the face. Last night it was 7:30 we had to close all our windows and literally it has not gone away. It smelled all day today.”

“Renergy’s shutdown will eliminate both the environmental problems in this case and the olfactory nuisance that the site has become,” he said. “I am asking the court to approve our proposed order so Renergy can move swiftly and properly with a safe cleanup.”

The state also requested a final judgement in Greene County Common Pleas Court, asking the court to require Renergy to:

  • Stop accepting feedstock and waste by Oct. 1
  • Empty the digestate storage tank by Dec. 15
  • Empty and clean the digester and other equipment by Jan. 15
  • Submit documentation of the emptying and cleaning by Jan. 30
  • Request termination of permits and certify that the facility is permanently shut down by Jan. 31

The filing also seeks an additional $25,000 fee in penalties, bringing the total penalty to $100,000.

“We want to make sure the Attorney General holds their feet to the fire,” Goldblatt said.

Jude Eschete, who lives in the Waterford Landing neighborhood, moved into his home with his wife in August of last year, and said he could tell almost immediately something was off. Eschete, a Marine veteran and engineer, moved to Fairborn from Louisiana for work.

“I started posting in our neighborhood group, and I was like ‘What is that? What am I smelling?” he said. “And why, in that entire nine-month period (prior) when we were building our house, were we not told about this?”

With a deadline for the facility shutting down set for the end of January, Eschete said he is looking forward to being able to enjoy his property again.

“We were always sitting on our back porch in Louisiana, and coming up here it was such a shame we couldn’t enjoy our time outside,” he said. “We couldn’t have people over. It was embarrassing.”

The Greene County facility is one of two Renergy digesters in the state. The second facility is in Morrow County. The digesters use bacteria to break down manure and other organic materials, eventually turning them into methane which is sold for electricity production, according to Yost’s office.

The state previously sued Renergy on behalf of the Ohio EPA for air and water pollution violations at both digester sites.

Yost said the air pollution violations were addressed, but water pollution violations have continued, along with complaints about the odor.