December 22, 2014

Elyria
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Waste lagoon plan flushed

PITTSFIELD TWP. — The company trying to establish a storage pond for treated human waste in southern Lorain County announced Tuesday that it is abandoning the effort.

In a release, Quasar Energy Group said new technology is the reason for shifting its efforts elsewhere.

“While storage lagoons will continue to play some role in the company’s business model, we anticipate the roll out of q-bio will make lagoons a seasonal contingency plan,” said Mel Kurtz, the president of Quasar, in a news release.

According to the release, q-bio absorption technology is a “revolutionary process” that binds nutrient-rich anaerobic digester effluent, such as treated human waste, with woody waste materials like yard waste. Quasar has begun testing the process at locations in Columbus and Zanesville.

Earlier last week, however, the attorney for the owners of the land on which the storage pond was to be built notified the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency that his clients’ contract with the company had been terminated, alleging that the company breached the terms of the deal.

Dennis O’Toole, attorney for the property owners Donald and Deborah Ortner, said he could not comment on the terms of the contract or how Quasar allegedly violated them, but he said his clients barred Quasar employees from entering the property.

“Unequivocally, the owners of the property are not going to permit Quasar Energy Group to come on to the property and conduct operations as they initially intended to do,” he said earlier Tuesday afternoon.

In a letter to the Ohio EPA on April 25, O’Toole addressed a dispute between Quasar and the Ortners. O’Toole wrote that the continuing dispute is regarding a “breach in the terms and conditions” of the lease with Quasar.

“Because of this dispute, Quasar Energy Group was advised not to conduct any activities on the leased property and not to enter onto the property until all regulatory matters and concerns were properly addressed,” he wrote.

The plans for a storage pond for human waste had not been well-received by those living around the Ortners’ property, who feared the lagoon would be both a danger and a nuisance.

As a result, a Pittsfield Township zoning inspector issued a cease-and-desist order alleging that the lagoon was not permitted by township zoning rules.

In addition, 43 Pittsfield Township residents and their attorney, Gerald Phillips, filed an appeal with the Ohio EPA in January asking that the EPA revoke its permit that was granted to French Creek BioEnergy, a sub-company of Quasar.

They allege that the company provided the EPA with incorrect coordinates and misleading information when the company applied for a permit to build the lagoon.

According to the release from Quasar, that storage lagoon, which has been unused due to the cease-and-desist order, will be returned to its original condition.

Earlier Tuesday, the EPA was awaiting a response from Quasar as to how it would continue with the project.

Mike Settles, spokesman for the Ohio EPA, said there were several violations at the site, which were noted during an April 10 visit. The violations carry a maximum possible penalty of $10,000 a day fines, and neither Ortner nor Quasar would take responsibility, according to EPA documents.

The violations were outlined in a letter dated April 18 to Donald Ortner and Bruce Bailey, Quasar’s vice president of technical affairs. Violations included improper storm water runoff controls, which led to sediment running into nearby wetlands.

Dan Bogoevski, district engineer of the Division of Surface Water at the Ohio EPA, wrote in the notice of violation that French Creek BioEnergy had blamed Ortner for the violations, adding that the company had tried to fix them, but he would not let them on the property.

“French Creek BioEnergy LLC indicated that Mr. Ortner is the operator of this construction activity as he was the contractor that performed the earth-disturbing activity on site and was in charge of the day-to-day operations associated with those earth-disturbing activities,” Bogoevski wrote.

O’Toole said the Ortners had asked that Quasar remediate the land, but he said Ortner is not taking responsibility for the alleged violations.

In a response from O’Toole to Bogoevski, O’Toole wrote that Quasar leased Ortner’s property in October. The company then entered into a contract with D&D Associated Contractors Inc. to perform work at the site, which was directed by Quasar personnel.

“My client has been trying to assist in the resolution of all of the many issues and problems that have arisen due to the unfortunate series of events that find their origin in the actions of the lessee of this property, Quasar Energy, LLC … I can assure you that my client would never stand in the way of the proper remediation of his and his spouse’s property and stands ready to do so,” O’Toole wrote. “However, he strongly takes issue with the apparent unilateral decision that it is his personal responsibility to do so, especially in light of the incorrect and inaccurate statements and assertions contained in your letter.”

A spokeswoman for Quasar did not directly address the allegations but sent a news release that stated that the company has been collaborating with anaerobic digestion facilities and composting sites in other locations to begin its new q-bio concept.

According to the release, the q-bio concept has been deployed in Europe for more than 20 years.

“This is a game changing technology for the industry and Quasar is proud to be at the forefront,” Kurtz said in the release.

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