EPA approves Greene County ponds to hold 32 million gallons of waste

Dovetail Energy, or Renergy, was awarded a permit to build two ponds that will further process the biofertilizer the site produces.
Dovetail Energy, or Renergy, was awarded a permit to build two ponds that will further process the biofertilizer the site produces.

A company won state approval to build two Bath Twp. ponds that could hold up to 32 million gallons of human, animal and food waste byproducts, but some Greene County residents plan to appeal.

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency approved the application for Dovetail Energy, at 1156 Herr Rd., to install two new biodigester ponds.

The material comes from nearby wastewater treatment plants. It is stored in the ponds after going through the anaerobic digestion process in which organic matter is broken down to produce energy and usable fertilizer, also called bio-gas and bio-fertilizer.

The ponds will further process the product, said Logan Randles, manager of soil and water at Renergy.

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Randles said Dovetail Energy, also known as Renergy, plans to eventually move away from injecting bio-fertilizer into the ground and to putting it on farm crops as they are growing. The two new ponds will further break down the final product, making it more liquid and separating out the nutrients to be used in a more efficient way.

The facility is located on Bath Twp. Trustee Tom Pitstick’s farm.

Kassie Lester, who lives down the road from the facility, said she plans to appeal the permit.

Her main concern with the ponds is that they will sit on top of the area’s aquifer.

“They’ve given this permit with no guarantee it won’t be in our water,” Lester said.

Benjamin Jones, who also lives nearby the facility, said it is “mind-boggling” that the EPA is allowing the ponds to be built on the aquifer.

“If you just moved it five miles, it wouldn’t be on the aquifer. It just makes no sense. They’re forcing it to go there,” Jones said.

Lester claims the EPA has not done proper research on the facility.

“This is a real concern for everybody,” Lester said, “and the EPA is not monitoring what’s going on.”

Renergy also has a facility in Morrow County, and Ohio has 11 other farm-based digester facilities, according to the EPA.

The Morrow County facility has a 20 million gallon pond, similar to the two planned in Greene County.

The ponds will have two synthetic liners that will each be 1/32nd of an inch thick. In between the layers and beneath the second layer, there will be a leak detection system to detect any water that comes through the liners.

“You can tell immediately if there is a leak,” Randles said. “And it will be monitored regularly.”

The permit states that the ponds will be inspected for erosion, leakage, animal damage or vegetation growing out of the ponds on a monthly basis in December, January and February and inspected every week during the other months of the year.

MORE: ‘Biodigester’ farm in Bath Twp. raises stink among neighbors

The EPA held a meeting at Wright State for public comments on June 27. Jones said he felt there weren’t enough answers given at the meeting.

Randles said the project will be completed this year. The company is currently seeking bids for the construction of the two ponds.

“Environmental protection has been behind every decision that we’ve made,” Randles said. “The research and engineering behind these ponds is very robust. We have worked to make sure we won’t be having a negative impact on the environment.”

Lester and Jones said they won’t stop fighting against the ponds.

“It’s not just feces, it’s anything that goes down the drain. Chemical cleaners, drugs, who knows what,” Jones said. “And the EPA doesn’t know what it does to the environment or to human health. Where is the outrage on this?”