© 2022 WYSO
Our Community. Our Nation. Our World.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

EPA alleges local company violated Clean Air Act

The Dovetail Biodigester on Herr Road in Fairborn
Chris Welter
/
WYSO
The Dovetail Biodigester on Herr Road in Fairborn

After more than a year-long investigation, the US EPA alleged Renergy, Inc. burnt off some of the excess biogas it produced that contained levels of hydrogen sulfide–an extremely flammable and highly toxic colorless gas known for its “rotten egg” odor– that were above permitted levels (exceeding 1,000 ppmv concentration)

The US EPA alleges a local company violated the Clean Air Act.

Renergy, Inc. runs something called a biodigester a series of machines that break down organic waste and produce methane gas that can be burned to make electricity–in Greene County’s Bath Township. The byproduct of the biodigestion process is a thick sludge, which can then be used by farmers as an organic fertilizer under the Ohio EPA’s biosolids program.

After more than a year-long investigation, the US EPA alleged Renergy burnt off excess biogas it produced that had levels of hydrogen sulfide–an extremely flammable and highly toxic colorless gas known for its “rotten egg” odor– that were too high (exceeding 1,000 ppmv concentration) at their Dovetail Energy Greene County location. The federal EPA also alleged the company burnt off excess gas that wasn’t combustible enough (a heat content of less than 500 Btu/scf) in Bath Township. When a gas isn’t combustible enough, the VOCs it contains might not be destroyed before its emitted.

Lastly, the US EPA alleged that from June 29, 2020 through October 5, 2021 Renergy wasn’t using a flare or an engine to burn off its excess biogas while still running the Dovetail biodigester. That means excess biogas was being emitted directly into the air.

The company didn't self-report any of the permit violations either, the EPA alleged.

Earlier this year, the Ohio EPA also sued Renergy for overfilling its fertilizer sludge tanks and emitting unpermitted levels of ammonia from those sludge tanks—the ammonia suit was later settled.

The City of Fairborn and Bath Township are also suing Renergy. A class action lawsuit made up of local residents has been filed in Greene County too.

The latest allegations from the EPA come after local residents have complained for years of foul odors from the operation.

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
/
WYSO
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.

Lorie Venable lives near Dovetail Energy and is a part of the Concerned Citizens group that has lobbied and protested against the biodigester. She frequently speaks at Bath Township Trustee meetings about it.

"The company has always said we were lying, you're just causing a problem,” Venable said. “It's almost validating that all the research [we’ve done] over the last five or six years has been found true."

Renergy, through a public relations firm, told WYSO that they do not have any comments on the allegations.

In a Notice of Violation letter to Renergy, the US EPA said: “Section 113 of the Clean Air Act gives us several enforcement options. These options include issuing an administrative compliance order, issuing an administrative penalty order and bringing a judicial civil or criminal action.”

Renergy was alerted about the EPA allegations against them on August 5, 2022. The company has until September 4, 2022 to request a conference with the EPA about the violations. The EPA declined to comment if a conference with Renergy has been requested or has taken place, stating that the agency cannot comment on ongoing enforcement.

The EPA is making similar allegations about another biodigester that Renergy operates called Emerald BioEnergy in north-central Ohio's Morrow County.

Chris Welter is a reporter and corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

Chris Welter is an Environmental Reporter at WYSO through Report for America. In 2017, he completed the radio training program at WYSO's Eichelberger Center for Community Voices. Prior to joining the team at WYSO, he did boots-on-the-ground conservation work and policy research on land-use issues in southwest Ohio as a Miller Fellow with the Tecumseh Land Trust.