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SWAC and the Ohio EPA
Residents in the Southwest area are often passionate about environmental issues in their community.
One entity citizens turn to with their concerns is the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, which protects the environment and public health by ensuring compliance with environmental laws. To establish a better working relationship with the agency, members of the Southwest Area Commission (SWAC) invited representatives with the Ohio EPA to come to their May 20 meeting and hold an introductory session with the public.
They discussed the EPA's authority - what they can regulate and what they cannot, and invited the community to attend a meeting on June 3 for more discussion on Schmack Biomass LLC, a company that wants to build a biogas production facility at 2500 Jackson Pike.
The Ohio EPA held a public meeting on April 7 to discuss the company's request for a draft air permit and will now be going over a draft permit-to-install and a draft wastewater permit on June 3.
"Most of our public meetings have a narrow focus and many of the concerns that were raised (on April 7) were bigger issues than we could tackle that night," said Jed Thorp, the Ohio EPA's public involvement coordinator.
At past SWAC meetings, several commissioners expressed an interest in the biogas production facility, but were concerned about traffic, pollution and the odors it could potentially bring. The facility proposes to accept various feedstocks, such as sewage sludge, manure, fats, oils, grease, food waste and agricultural energy crops.
The commissioners brought up several examples of past and present odorous businesses in the area, and asked the environmental liaisons about their authority over such matters.
"We do not write permits for odors, but we do regulate hazardous compounds or toxins," said Adam Ward, air manager at the Central District office. "We have very limited authority over odors, and if the stink doesn't have much impact on health, there's not much we can do."
Despite the limitations on what the agency can do for odors, Ward said opinions are relevant and encourages residents to fill out odor complaint forms so the agency will be able to "identify what the problem is and might be able to address it."
The June 3 Schmack Biomass draft permit meeting will take place at 6:30 p.m. at the New Horizons United Methodist Church, located at 1665 Harrisburg Pike.
At their March meeting, commissioners voted on a four-month pilot program where they, along with community volunteers, would meet every third Saturday at the New Horizons United Methodist Church parking lot and clean up trash along area streets and main corridors such as Frank Road, Brown Road and Harrisburg Pike.
The first foray was held on April 18 in conjunction with Earth Day on April 22, but low community turnout had them wondering if they should just scrap the whole program.
"I don't think we should because one month doesn't give us a clear pattern on community involvement," said Commissioner Jennifer Miller.
The other commissioners agreed and said in addition to spreading the word among their neighbors, would try to get area businesses involved in the effort.
They plan to tackle Harrisburg Pike on June 20 at 9 a.m. and encourage residents to pitch in.
"I hear a lot of jabber about what we are doing (with the cleanup), but we need more people to come out and participate," said chairperson Ralph Horn.
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