Quasar Energy Group, the company working to begin operations at a human-waste storage pond in Pittsfield Township, has had several violations at its other facilities, including at a sludge storage lagoon in Fairfield County.
The violations were noted after inspections by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency for compliance with federal and state environmental regulations and requirements outlined in the company’s permit.
According to a letter from the EPA’s environmental specialist Paul Vandermeer, Quasar’s Carroll Storage Lagoons were “nearly filled to overflowing with biosolids” during an inspection Sept. 18.
“There was literally no room to accommodate the storage of any more biosolids (not to mention heavy precipitation) without the distinct possibility of an overflow,” Vandemeer noted in his report.
Ohio EPA spokesman Mike Settles said the violations noted in the Notice of Violation written to Mel Kurtz, the president of Quasar, was enough to cause a “serious concern.”
“We don’t want the biosolids to overflow and leak into a nearby stream,” he said.
Regulations require storage lagoons to have at least 1 foot of room for the biosolids, which are treated human waste also referred to as sludge.
Investigators also found numerous cracks and holes in a berm in the lagoon, and a large amount of plastic in the margins of the lagoons. The notice stated, “In particular, shredded utensils, bottle caps and manufactured inerts were abundant.”
Inspectors found trucks that appeared to be draining biosolids over the ground instead of the lagoon. The letter stated that the practice could “pose a leaking hazard” into the ground surface, and that the practice was “unacceptable.”
According to the letter, samples were not provided to the Ohio EPA for a June report, as required, and a fence near the lagoon was open at two locations, causing a risk of the area to be accessed by unauthorized people.
Quasar was given the opportunity to correct the violations, but inspectors returned Feb. 7 to find that the fence at the site was not fixed, according to Ohio EPA paperwork.
The site, which was referred to in the second Notice of Violation as Carroll/Central Ohio Bioenergy Sludge Storage Lagoons, also had a new violation after inspectors found a container of used motor oil left open that “could easily spill onto the ground.”
The company was given until March 15 to fix the violations.
Residents in Pittsfield Township, who have openly opposed operations of a sludge storage facility on Quarry Road, have expressed concerns at Pittsfield Township trustees meetings that Quasar will continue to violate regulations at its new facility.
The residents filed a cease-and-desist order against French Creek Bioenergy LCC, a company operating under Quasar, with the help of their lawyer, Gerald Phillips. Phillips and Lorain County Assistant Prosecutor Gerald Innes also filed an appeal Jan. 17 with the Ohio EPA, alleging that French Creek Bioenergy already has provided incorrect information on an application to install the lagoon.
The appeal noted that among the erroneous information, French Creek Bioenergy provided the wrong coordinates for the facility, making soil test samples provided to the EPA void.
Quasar’s CEO Clemens Halene has declined to comment on the appeal.
Residents, who live less than 300 yards from the storage lagoon, are also concerned about the potential smell from sitting human waste.
Under conditions of the Ohio EPA Permit to Install, the storage of the class B biosolids shall not result in the generation of a “nuisance odor,” as determined by the Ohio EPA. If such a nuisance odor arises, the company would be asked to correct the problem, according to the permit.
The Ohio EPA already has found the presence of “objectionable odors” at some of Quasar’s facilities, according to notices of violation sent to Bruce Bailey, vice president of technical affairs.
Inspectors were called to Quasar’s facility in Columbus and its facility in Cleveland, operating as Collinwood Bioenergy LCC, after receiving reports of smells in the area.
Technical problems that caused the odors were quickly addressed, according to documentation, including a complaint from the Cleveland Division of Air Quality, alleging that Collinwood Bioenergy was responsible for the odors after a membrane on a digester tank ruptured.
A letter from Bailey to the Cleveland Department of Health, Division of Air Quality, said the problem had been fixed. Bailey said he took issue with the Notice of Violation, however.
“We do take issue with the NOV because although there was a change in smell it was not offensive as attested to by you and others visiting the plant on the 26th,” he wrote. “This is an important factor as we were told 30 people at US Job Corps were vomiting and do not wish to take responsibility for the sensationalism now or in the future.”
Bailey declined to comment Friday on the Quasar violations, or several violations against him at other facilities documented since 2007. He directed all questions to a Quasar spokeswoman, who did not return calls for comment Friday.
Calls made earlier in the week to the company also were not returned.
Settles said he thought Bailey and Quasar had addressed the violations and concerns. He said per Ohio EPA policy, violations are noted, as well as actions the company must take to ensure compliance. If the company does not comply, an enforcement action may be implemented through the courts.
“I don’t recall where we could just yank a permit,” Settles said. “Typically, we would have to go through the legal process.”
He said it’s not unusual to see violations at facilities, but these violations are always documented.
Quasar received no violations during a visit to its facility in Zanesville in July.
Settles said while Quasar’s violations are documented on the Ohio EPA’s website, he was not sure if it represented the entirety of complaints against the company.
Contact Chelsea Miller at 329-7123 or firstname.lastname@example.org.