October 24, 2014

Elyria
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Moratorium out, but trustees still oppose sludge pool

PITTSFIELD TWP. — Gerald Phillips, attorney for the residents of Pittsfield Township, was fired up at a Monday trustees’ meeting after the trustees ended a moratorium on a human waste lagoon on Quarry Road.

Phillips, who petitioned for the moratorium designed to stop Quasar Energy Group from continuing operations at the lagoon on Quarry Road, was upset that trustees and new legal counsel decided to go with another course of action.

The trustees unanimously moved to end the moratorium after an executive session Monday.

“We are still of the opinion that the moratorium is not the wisest decision to make,” said Gerald Innes, attorney for the trustees.

Innes said the moratorium, approved by the trustees Jan. 21 at the urging of residents, would be terminated. Quasar has appealed a cease-and-desist order from the township, which will go before the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Innes declined to comment further, saying that it would not be wise to discuss litigation in a public forum.

During a previous meeting, Innes said a moratorium would go against the township’s case that the storage lagoon was built illegally, as a moratorium is designed to “delay something that is already allowed.”

For now, the cease-and-desist order remains in place.

Phillips spoke up, however, criticizing the decision.

“Right now, they have no regulations. They’re naked,” he said. “There’s nothing to protect the residents if you don’t have a backup plan.”

Forty-three property owners have signed an appeal to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, asking that it reconsider a permit it granted to French Creek BioEnergy LCC, the company operating the human waste, or sludge, lagoon. Now residents are afraid that there is nothing they can do to stop the spread of sludge on neighboring fields.

According to the Ohio EPA, class B sludge, or biosolids, has already been approved to be applied in several Lorain County fields. Spokesman Mike Settles said there are benefits to using the sludge, which is more nutrient-rich than traditional fertilizers.

But residents worry about potential health concerns and feel that the Ohio EPA has not been successfully monitoring the lagoon, which they say was built under false pretenses — with the incorrect location given on a permit application. They allege that the Ohio EPA has not been to the site to verify information given on the permit application.

“This is going to kill somebody. This is in our yard,” said one resident during Monday’s meeting.

Mark McConnell, chairman of the Board of Trustees, tried to convince residents that the trustees were on their side.

“I don’t know how to assure you that we understand the magnitude of this situation. … If you guys want to take the land application issue to another level, that’s fine, but we have to focus on our zoning,” he said.

Contact Chelsea Miller at 329-7123 or cmiller@chroniclet.com.