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.
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.
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.”