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