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Residents, city leaders want more information about Miami County battery burning site

The five Piqua city commissioners at their meeting on Feb
City of Piqua
The five Piqua city commissioners at their meeting on February 6.

Piqua city commissioners will create a committee to investigate the full extent of lithium-ion battery burning in the city after neighbors complained about it and the Ohio EPA revoked the permit late last year.

The frequency and nature of these burns remains unclear, according to city leaders and residents.

What we know
In 2018, the city of Piqua Fire Department received a permit for open burning of large lithium-ion batteries for research and fire training. It did this in collaboration with a company, Energy Safety Response Group or ESRG.

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency investigated after receiving 17 complaints from residents about irritating smoke and concerns of environmental impacts.

The agency issued a notice of violation to ESRG in September, and ultimately revoked the city’s permit. In an email from an Ohio EPA spokesperson, this was after the agency “determined that ESRG's activities were not consistent with an open burning authorization.”

Since then, the city has been undergoing water sampling and air quality testing to look for any signs of contamination from these emissions. The most recent water sample was taken in January, and results will be shared with residents and the Ohio EPA, according to an agency spokesperson.

Energy Safety Response Group didn't respond to WYSO's request for comment by deadline.

The city, residents want more details

The committee will consist of five members. The goal is to evaluate what took place between when the permit was issued and when it was revoked.

The group will issue a report with these findings, “and to make recommendations, if necessary, to the (Piqua) City Commission,” according to the resolution establishing the committee.

Some residents say the committee is a good step. Piqua resident Susan Spidel said she also wants to ensure the city takes action once the group issues its report.

“What are the procedures that are going to be put in place on getting that information out to the public and in what manner and what time frame? Because it sounds great. ‘OK, we're going to form a committee,’” Spidel said. “Well, if there's no accountability and structure placed, then what happens?”

Other residents are concerned about who can serve on the committee.

Current or former city employees are excluded. And committee members must be city residents, and can’t live in surrounding townships.

Piqua City Commissioner Frank Debrosse said those provisions are a precautionary measure.

“If our goal here is truly an independent review of what happened, I can't in good conscience allow anyone to have a hand in producing that report who was there when it started,” he said.

The Piqua City Commission will appoint the committee members. Applications will be accepted through Feb. 21. For more information, visit Piqua’s city website.

A citizen group called Toxic Piqua has been pursuing information on these burns. They’re planning to organize their own events to collaboratively research what happened.

Adriana Martinez-Smiley (she/they) is the Environment and Indigenous Affairs Reporter for WYSO. They grew up in Hamilton, Ohio and graduated from Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism in June 2023. Before joining WYSO, her work has been featured in NHPR, WBEZ and WTTW.

Email: amartinez-smiley@wyso.org
Cell phone: 937-342-2905
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