Residents protest Bath Twp. biodigester operation, trustees vote to appeal judge’s ruling

About 30 Bath Twp. and eastern Fairborn residents gathered Wednesday evening outside the township administration building to protest a biodigester operation they say produces offensive odors.

Many residents carried handmade signs, with slogans such as “Quell the Smell” and “Stop the Stink” for the demonstration before the township trustee meeting against Dovetail — an anaerobic biodigester that breaks down organic materials, such as food scraps, oil, grease, yard waste and manure to produce fertilizer and biogas. Cars driving by on Yellow Springs-Fairfield Road honked in support to people standing with signs near the road.

ExplorePHOTOS: Residents protest biodigester decision

Bath Twp. Trustees Kassie Lester and Steve Ross voted Monday during a special meeting to appeal a decision made last week by Greene County Common Pleas Judge Michael Buckwalter. The judge last Thursday sided with Renergy, which operates Dovetail, saying the operation is a public utility and not subject to township zoning regulations.

Bath Twp. Trustee Tom Pitstick, who owns the farm on which the biodigester operates, was not at the special meeting.

Trustees Lester and Ross on Wednesday formally voted for the resolution to appeal the ruling, and Pitstick abstained. The township’s attorney will be filing the appeal soon with the Ohio 2nd District Appellate Court soon.

The legal fight over the facility began in 2019 when an outside prosecutor was brought in to advise the township. Renergy and Pitstick were sent a letter from that prosecutor saying the operation was in violation of both the Ohio Revised Code and Bath Twp. zoning code. The letter stated that Dovetail had 30 days to correct the violation. “Failure to correct this violation will result in legal action,” the prosecutor stated in the letter.

The bioenergy company and Pitstick appealed that order and continued to operate.

ExploreBath Twp. will appeal judge’s decision on biodigester operation

Bradley Martin, who lives near the biodigester, said he feels some relief because the township decided to appeal Buckwalter’s decision. He said he hopes the panel of judges reviewing this case will be objective and not factor in the prior decisions made in Greene County and in the courts with the sister facility in Morrow County, where a judge also found the facility was a public utility.

“We’re expecting a marathon, not a sprint,” Martin said. “I’ve been fighting this for three years.”

The Morrow County Renergy facility in April had a spill. The company said this happened during a standard land application and a hose failed. The Ohio EPA and Ohio Department of Natural Resources were notified, the company said. Martin said neighbors are concerned something similar could happen here.

Residents have complained to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency about the smell multiple times over the years. They’ve also taken to an app called Smell My City to complain about the odor.

Mike Uecker, who said he’s lived in Bath Twp. since the 1980s, spoke at the township trustee meeting in support of Pitstick. When his family moved here, the Pitsticks were raising hogs outside, which he said smelled worse than it does now. Uecker said there are certain smells that come with living near farm operations and wetlands.

“It’s similar to people who move next to an airport and then complain about the noise,” Uecker said.

Luke Borntrager, who lives nearby the biodigester and is a named plaintiff in a class action lawsuit against Renergy, said the residents who live nearby have a lot of unanswered questions.

The suit alleges the smell from the Dovetail operation has interfered with the residents’ use and enjoyment of their property. The lawsuit also says a properly operated facility would prevent the odors from the facility from invading the homes and property of those living nearby.

ExploreGreene County judge rules in favor of controversial biodigester, residents ‘heartbroken’

Borntrager said residents have concerns about the truck traffic going in and out of the Renergy operation on Herr Road and the safety on the road. He said the road is not wide enough for two semi-trucks to pass each other, so one typically has to drive partially off the road. Borntrager said his dog was hit and killed by a truck driving on Herr Road and he has concerns about his children waiting for the school bus at the end of his driveway when trucks are driving past.

Greene County Engineer Stephanie Goff studied the traffic on Herr Road last summer and said that without upgrades to the road, her office is concerned about the long-term condition of the road and its ability to serve high volumes of heavy truck traffic.

Residents also have concerns over the smell and the long-term health effects of living near a biodigester.

“There’s been no study of disease transmission via vectors, such as mice, mosquitos, in standing water. There’s been no research about airborne particulate matter. Overall, Greene County, Bath Twp. and the city of Fairborn have been signed up to be guinea pigs,” Borntrager said. “And nobody even knew about it. … We did not give the ‘OK’ to be test cases for this industry.”

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