MOUNT PERRY, Ohio — The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency announced Tuesday that it has granted a permit for a biosolids storage facility in Perry County. Last year, the agency issued a permit to install the facility, allowing its construction. The new permit gives it the green light to begin operations once it is built.
News of the facility’s construction plans sparked strong opposition from many people living near the project. At a public hearing hosted by the Ohio EPA at Glenford Elementary School last October, for example, about 200 people showed up to ask questions and voice concerns about the proposed facility. A period during which the agency was accepting public comments on the draft permit ended on November 3, 2021; after requests from the local community, the comment period was extended by seven days to give citizens more time to provide input.
Mount Perry resident Bill Wilson, who was among those who attended the meeting, said opponents of the project are appalled by the EPA’s decision to issue the permit in the face of deep and widespread local concern.
“Obviously we’re just devastated that they’re allowing something without it even being built,” Wilson said Tuesday. A meeting of citizens concerned about the project was scheduled for 6 p.m. yesterday (Wednesday, March 2) near the project site on Departmental Road 34.
Steve Lear, permitting supervisor for the Ohio EPA’s Surface Water Division at the agency’s Southeast District office in Logan, confirmed that the facility is still under construction. “It was (still) under construction the last time I was there,” Lear reported. He added that once construction is complete, the agency will carry out further review before it can begin operation.
“There’s really no point where we say it has to be operational,” he explained. “In the permit, there are conditions that they must meet in order to operate.”
On Tuesday, the Ohio EPA released a 30-page copy of the permit, officially referred to as a “discharge authorization” under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). The licensee is Mount Perry Nutrient Storage LLC. The facility will essentially be a storage lagoon that can hold up to 20.6 million gallons of “Class B biosolids,” including human wastewater. It will be operated by Quasar Energy Group.
In addition to the permit, the Ohio EPA also released a document that records the many questions and concerns expressed by citizens during the public hearing and during the public comment period, as well as the agency’s responses to this input. public.
This 119-page document groups the many questions and comments into thematic categories, including drinking water wells, watercourses and wetlands; other environmental impact issues; biosolids; floodplain issues; roads and transport; operation of the site; odor and air quality; groundwater monitoring; construction of storage ponds; floors; property values and taxes; Permits and NPDES process; the permit applicant; EPA state and federal regulations; and various concerns.
Notable information provided by the agency in its responses includes the following:
• Groundwater monitoring wells will be located close to the lagoon. Samples will need to be taken regularly and the data submitted to the Ohio EPA for review, to verify that the lagoon liner is working properly. If data samples indicate that the lagoon is leaking into local groundwater, the owner will need to repair and remediate the groundwater before it migrates off site. Remediation techniques “generally involve a pump and treat system that pumps impacted groundwater through an appropriate treatment system”.
• Quasar will use an anaerobic digestion process to treat sewage sludge and “other raw organic materials” including food waste, manure and “other Ohio EPA approved organic materials”. This is done by heating them to at least 100 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 15 days. The biosolids will then be applied to land as fertilizer.
• After application, restrictions on the site will be put in place, such as limiting public access to fields and prohibiting animals from grazing for 30 days after spreading, in order to avoid contact with “ the small volume of pathogens that can remain in Class B biosolids”. after treatment. The EPA says, “Any remaining pathogens will be destroyed by heat, sunlight, drying, and other microorganisms in the soil.” Thirty days guarantees enough time for this further destruction of pathogens to occur. The EPA also says the agency’s research shows that “land application of biosolids is extremely unlikely to be a source of pathogenic groundwater contamination.”
• Quasar operates five other such facilities. A storage pond it operates in Wayne County, Ohio received a notice of violation from the Ohio EPA for failing to maintain proper runoff controls during its construction and failing to meet the deadline submission of a groundwater monitoring report. The company received five violation notices for off-site odors attributed to the pond. During construction, the company received two violation notices for dumping sediment from the site. Quasar reported to the Ohio EPA in 2014 that a biosolids truck rolled over, causing a spill; EPA emergency personnel monitored the cleanup. In November 2017, Quasar reported that a valve at its Zanesville energy facility in East Fultonham had broken causing biosolids to spill onto the property. Again, Ohio EPA staff investigated and monitored the cleanup of the incident, and a Notice of Violation was issued for the incident. The Ohio EPA has never fined the company for violating any of its current permits. Another company, Renergy, Inc., received violation notices for pond overcapacity and odor nuisance.
• The Ohio EPA’s review of the installation permit for the project indicates that it will be constructed outside the floodplain mapped by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and above the level of a hundred-year flood. “Therefore, no specific plan is required to operate during a flood.”
• Installation shall be inspected monthly for structural integrity.
• The EPA considers an odor to be a nuisance odor if it is “persistent offsite, pervasive, and strong enough to interfere with the reasonable use of the property or is injurious to public health”.
• On the question of the extent to which the public can trust the results of licensee self-monitoring, the EPA notes that in addition to being required to submit regular reports, licensees are routinely inspected, and “any issues found during an inspection may require further follow-up in the form of a Notice of Violation. If EPA discovers, through a review of submitted reports, that requirements have not been met or are incomplete, “staff will work with the licensee to resolve any compliance issues.” Intentional falsification of information required by the NPDES permit is a criminal offense that the Ohio EPA takes very seriously. Potential penalties associated with enforcement provide a strong incentive for licensees to report data accurately. »
• Although the lagoon plans originally included a clay liner, this was upgraded to “a more protective 60 mil HDPE synthetic geomembrane”.
• Although “several commenters” have raised the question of what the presence of the facility might do to local property values, it “is not a criterion that the Ohio EPA has the legal authority to assess when review of PTI and NPDES applications for this project. ”
• When asked what type of application can be made if the permit holder violates the conditions of their permit, the Ohio EPA responded, “Where a facility is in any type non-compliance, the agency’s goal is to return the offending facility to compliance. The Ohio EPA can provide technical and non-technical assistance, issue violation letters, issue administrative orders (with and without penalty), and refer cases to the Ohio Attorney General’s office for enforcement.
The Logan Daily News left a message at Quasar Energy Group headquarters on Wednesday but was not called back.
According to the Ohio EPA, the issuance of the permit can be appealed within 30 days to the Ohio Environmental Review Appeals Commission.