CARDINGTON, Ohio — For years, neighbors living near a farm in Morrow County have complained about foul odors, noise and truck traffic.
Over the years, the operators of the farm and a company named Renergy have collected animal and food waste, which they’ve used to feed a digester as a means to help generate electricity. The leftover waste products have been spread on nearby farmland as fertilizer.
But complaints and controversy surround this practice.
The operation on the farm has been cited repeatedly with notices of violation from the Ohio EPA for improperly spreading the waste material and storing untreated waste beyond their capacity in storage ponds on the farmland. Renergy’s chief operating officer previously told 10 Investigates it stopped accepting human waste from municipal wastewater plants years ago.
Still, criticism has persisted.
A spill in April 2021 and a fire at the digester have extended neighbors’ complaints about the operation.
The latest issue - a malfunction with the digester on Christmas Eve that led to 150,000 gallons of material spilling onto a neighboring land, according to court records filed by the Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost’s office.
Last year, Yost filed a lawsuit against Renergy, Emerald BioEnergy and Alex Ringler – collectively called the “Emerald defendants” - alleging that the operators were improperly storing untreated material in tanks on the property.
Yost is now asking a Morrow County judge for a preliminary injunction to prevent the farm’s activities from continuing, which the state alleges “threaten public health, safety and the environment.”
10 Investigates was able to reach one of the operators – Alex Ringler – by phone Thursday. He told us the farm is working to repair its operation but declined to comment further. Ringler said a public relations firm he works with would be reaching out with further comment.
John and Carol Doubikin live on the property where the material spilled Christmas Eve. John showed 10 Investigates a mason jar with dark liquid he says he collected from the spill sight. He says the Ohio EPA collected its own samples.
When asked what their concerns were, Carol said: “Contamination of water, of course you don’t want to hear the word I was going to say. It’s a short word, it starts with an ‘s.’ We’ve got kids around our home. The smell is sometimes horrific.”
As of Thursday afternoon online Morrow County court records do not show any update beyond the last filing from January 10.
This story could include updates.