Greene County residents try to block large waste ponds

Dovetail Energy LLC, also known as Renergy Inc., at 1156 Herr Road in Bath Twp., Greene County. RICHARD WILSON/STAFF
Dovetail Energy LLC, also known as Renergy Inc., at 1156 Herr Road in Bath Twp., Greene County. RICHARD WILSON/STAFF

A Bath Twp. resident is seeking sanctions against the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and Dovetail Energy, asking the agency to revoke Dovetail’s permit to build large ponds in Greene County to store biosolids.

Jacob Fulton filed the motion on Jan. 3, stating that Dovetail has been evasive and not answered any questions Fulton asked in the discovery phase of the case.

Fulton met with representatives from Sen. Sherrod Brown’s Columbus office about the Dovetail waste ponds on Thursday. There were also Delaware County residents in attendance who live near ponds like the ones Dovetail hopes to build in Bath Twp.

“We made the case to his office, because he was a supporter of this, asked him if this was what he intended, if this was what he wanted the outcome to be,” Fulton said.

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He said the woman the group met with seemed to be “taken aback” by what was going on at Dovetail.

Renergy has similar operations in 11 other locations across the state, according to the EPA.

Dovetail Energy, also known as Renergy, wants to build two synthetically lined ponds that would hold 8 million and 24 million gallons on property owned by Bath Twp. Trustee Tom Pitstick. The ponds would be used to store the biosolids material after it has been processed and treated through the biodigester operation.

The company turns sewage and biowaste from municipalities and other sources into methane energy, the byproduct of which is then turned into fertilizer for crops used to feed livestock.

Fulton’s property touches the area where Dovetail hopes to build these ponds.

Fulton wants the permit to install the new, bigger ponds to be revoked. He claims that the company has been over-applying the fertilizer it creates and that the ponds it wants to build are solely for storage.

“I think they have no intentions of spreading it, they just want to store it,” Fulton said. “That’s fraud.”

In his suit, Fulton alleges that Dovetail was dishonest in its responses to discovery questions.

“We want the EPA to regulate and pull the permit,” Fulton said.

Renergy spokeswoman Ashleigh Lemon said that she could not comment on specifics “due to ongoing legal matters,” but sent an emailed statement to this news organization.

“As always, Renergy remains firmly committed to building and operating our facilities in full compliance with all environmental guidelines and with consideration for preserving the communities and residents around us. Should this project come to fruition, we will continue to work under those same values,” Lemon said in the statement.

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Dina Pierce, a spokeswoman for the Ohio EPA, said that the Ohio EPA does not comment on pending appeals.

In September 2019, a Fayette County prosecutor issued a cease and desist order to Dovetail on behalf of Bath Twp. Fayette County Prosecutor Jess C. Weade was brought in to advise Bath Twp. by the Greene County Prosecutor’s Office. Weade said the facility is in violation of the current zoning code.

Dovetail appealed the cease and desist order.

Since Dovetail appealed the cease and desist order, the facility continues to operate in Bath Twp. It has not built the additional ponds yet.

“It’s just bonkers that this is happening,” Fulton said.

The Bath Twp. Board of Zoning Appeals will review Dovetail’s appeal on Feb. 13 at 7 p.m. at the Bath Twp. office building, 1006 Yellow Springs-Fairfield Road.

Fulton said he feels the Ohio EPA and Renergy are inappropriately close. For example, he said, talking points were designated “confidential” and exchanged between the Ohio EPA and Dovetail.

“The body that’s supposed to be regulating them should not be giving them help on talking points,” Fulton said.

The Environmental Review Appeals Commission (ERAC) will have a hearing on the matter in June.

The ERAC hears and resolves appeals from various actions taken by the director of the Ohio EPA, the director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture, the State Fire Marshal and county and local boards of health.

Fulton said that Dovetail has been evasive throughout this process and the Ohio EPA has fought with him and other concerned residents.

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Fulton said now he is working on responding to the discovery questions from Dovetail and the Ohio EPA.

“The last question of discovery from the Ohio EPA to us was they wanted to know the last time our septic tank had been inspected,” Fulton said. “You’re asking me that, but you’re literally building a 32 million gallon pond of poo in my back yard, and you’re wanting to know when the last time my septic tank was inspected? That’s way outside the purview of what we’re talking about.”

Fulton said he is concerned for his family. He has a 6-year-old, a 7-year-old and a 7-month-old. The Fultons give only bottled water to their children, he said.

He believes the facility is a risk to the water supply because Dovetail is situated over an aquifer.

Dovetail has had several complaints made against the Bath Twp. facility since as early as 2016.

View complaints from 2017 and 2016 here