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Bye bye biodigester: Greene County waste processing business to shut down

Residents put a smaller thumb tack next to where they live if they say they smell the biodigester there. The big thumbtack is the Dovetail Biowaste Operation.
Mawa Iqbal
Residents do an impromptu charade in the Bath Township Building Parking lot. Residents were asked to put a smaller thumb tack next to where they live if they say they smell the biodigester there. The big thumbtack is the Dovetail Biowaste Operation on Herr Road.

A biodigester business owned by a company called Renergy in Greene County's Bath Township will close. The shutdown comes as the business faces mounting fines and a number of lawsuits for allegedly violating state permits and not following environmental regulations.

"After working to try to fix ongoing issues that led Ohio EPA to allege nuisance odor violations, Renergy, Inc. decided to close the Green [sic] County Dovetail facility," the agency said on Wednesday.

A biodigester is a series of machines that break down organic waste to produce methane gas that can be converted into electricity. Another byproduct from that process is a thick sludge that's stored in open-air biosolid lagoon tanks until it can be used by farmers as fertilizer.

Local residents have complained for years about the bad odor coming from the business. Pam Gayheart lives less than a mile from the biodigester in Fairborn.

"It wasn't just a farm manure smell. It was like a chemical smell on top of waste." Gayheart said, "So we're just really, really happy that this problem has been solved."

State regulators said all fines will be suspended if the company shuts down by the end of January 2024. A separate class-action lawsuit filed by Greene County residents against Renergy is pending.

"Renergy’s shutdown will eliminate both the environmental problems in this case and the olfactory nuisance that the site has become," Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said in a release.

Lorie Venable helps lead the group of residents who have lobbied against the biodigester, including at the Ohio Statehouse.

"What they normally do in this industry is wear the citizens down," Venable said. "Luckily I was retired and my personality is I don't take no for an answer. I just kept pushing, pushing, pushing and found out the people that I needed to talk to."

Renergy did not respond to WYSO's request for comment by publication.

Chris Welter is the Managing Editor at The Eichelberger Center for Community Voices at WYSO.

Chris got his start in radio in 2017 when he completed a six-month training at the Center for Community Voices. Most recently, he worked as a substitute host and the Environment Reporter at WYSO.
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