State asks court to find biodigester company in contempt over Morrow County site

Order would bar Renergy from shipping fertilizer tank containers to Bath Twp. and other Renergy locations.

The state of Ohio has filed for a contempt motion against bioenergy company Renergy Inc., which operates a local biodigester facility, citing violations at the company’s other site in Morrow County, north of Columbus.

The filing in Morrow County Common Pleas Court alleges that Emerald Bioenergy in Morrow County is improperly storing nearly 1.5 million gallons of untreated organic waste in 83 mobile containers known as frac tanks, in violation of a preliminary injunction to which the company agreed in June, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office said Tuesday. The court filing cites risks of leakage and pollution.

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“We are taking proactive steps to avoid a mess,” Attorney General Dave Yost said in a statement. “The excessive storage of untreated waste poses a serious threat to Ohioans if a tank leaks and pollutes the surrounding water. We are going to court because, when it comes to the environment, waiting to see what happens is not the answer.”

The filing follows a spate of lawsuits filed by the AG against Renergy earlier this year. In a June lawsuit, Yost alleged that three Renergy operations, including Dovetail biodigester in Bath Twp. in Greene County, had committed air and water pollution violations.

The violations were resolved with two consent orders, requiring Emerald to treat and remove certain waste. But the AG’s office now says the number of “frac tanks” has grown rapidly.

Yost’s filing asks the court to order Renergy to adhere to the consent order, empty and remove frac tanks at the Emerald facility as soon as possible but no later than Dec. 31, to stop accepting untreated organic waste at the site until the tanks are removed, and to refrain from transporting frac tanks on any properties owned by the company, including Dovetail in Greene County and Steamtown, the company’s treatment facility, also in Morrow County.

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The Emerald Facility is the sister facility of the biodigester operation in Bath Twp. Both biodigesters operated by Renergy use an anaerobic process in which bacteria break down manure, food waste and other organic matter into fertilizer and methane gas for electricity.

The Bath Twp. facility has been a source of controversy for years, as neighbors have complained of odors, and Bath Twp. officials have pursued zoning controls.

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