Greene County facility that neighbors call smelly and heavy on traffic gets approval to expand

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency recently gave approval for a company to expand its biodigester operations in Bath Twp., but residents who have complained about the farm’s odor and truck traffic plan to appeal.

Dovetail Energy LLC, also known as Renergy, has been granted a permit to improve its “biosolids treatment facility” on Trustee Tom Pitstick’s farm at 1156 Herr Road near Fairborn, according to the Ohio EPA.

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“The facility treats biosolids from municipal wastewater treatment plants, hog manure and other approved feedstocks in an anaerobic biodigester,” the EPA’s release states. “Electricity is generated from the gas that is produced during the digesting process. The solids produced by the treatment process are land applied as a soil amendment for local farm fields.”

The plans are to add two, 2,000-gallon heat tanks and a 230,000-gallon feedstock tank.

The “organic material” that Renergy processes and distributes on farmlands as fertilizer consists of 5 percent manure, 25 percent biosolids and 70 percent food waste, according to Cari Oberfield, chief operating officer of Renergy.

“Renergy’s digesters cannot process materials like hazardous waste or anything non-organic because that would kill the bacteria critical to operating the digester,” Oberfield said in a prepared statement.

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Kassie and Ron Lester, who live down the street from the farm, have filed complaints with the EPA about odors emanating from the Renergy operation, and they plan to appeal the state agency’s decision to permit the expansion.

Because of residents’ concerns, Renergy’s initial plans were modified to include updating the dimensions of the existing biosolids storage tank and removing a proposed 1.7-million-gallon digester expansion and backup generator, according to the Ohio EPA.

Kassie Lester said they have hired an attorney to address what they consider is a zoning violation — allowing an industrial operation in an agricultural zone.

“We still have odor issues. Truck traffic is still heavy. We’re not going to give up. We think everyone in this township should be treated the same,” Lester said.

Renergy accepts sludge loads from multiple municipalities and counties, but Renergy’s contract with Greene County is set to expire after a 20-percent increase in costs was not accepted, according to County Administrator Brandon Huddleson.

“We advertised for proposals and would have considered Renergy as part of the process had they submitted a bid,” Huddleson said.

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The proposed increase was to “assist Renergy’s efforts to further reduce odors and manage material in a more effective manner,” Oberfield said.

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