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Residents worry about biosolids in Lorain Co. after company buys 150 acres of land

Application submitted for biosolids tree farm in Grafton Township
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Posted at 6:00 PM, Jan 30, 2023

GRAFTON TOWNSHIP, Ohio — For the past several months, fears have hovered over one community in southeast Lorain County, after a company known for its use of biosolids bought nearly 150 acres last June.

Signs have started appearing in front of homes near Law Road and State Route 83 in Grafton Township, urging "NO BioSolids in Grafton."

According to the U.S. EPA, biosolids, also known as sewage sludge, is what's leftover after water is removed from waste during the treatment process. That solid material can then be used and recycled for its nutrients.

As a result, many residents expressed health and contamination concerns to News 5, ranging from a possible biosolids digester, lagoon or processing facility coming to their neighborhood.

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A view of the property owned by Grow Now LLC along State Route 83 in Grafton Township.

"In my mind, it’s a landfill," neighbor Matt Harlan said. "They will bring in large quantities of sludge and they will dig trenches and pour tons and tons of this into the ground and bury it and put trees on top. For me, that feels like a landfill."

Online property records show that the owner of the land is a relatively new company called Grow Now LLC.

A search of the Ohio Secretary of State's business registry ties Grow Now LLC with Quasar Energy Group, a Northeast Ohio renewable energy and organics firm.

In a phone conversation, Grafton Township leaders pointed out to News 5 that no formal plans have come across their desk when it comes to what Grow Now LLC wants to do with the land.

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Grow Now LLC shares the same Independence address and staff as Quasar, but Quasar's president told News 5 it’s an entirely new endeavor.

Jennifer Mesar and her husband Steve own Outlaw Alpacas, which currently sits across the intersection from the property.

The two care for about 28 alpacas and moved to the area four years ago.

Jennifer Mesar told News 5 she's had a healthy herd but has started to notice quite the difference in the past few months and wonders if it could be connected.

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Some of the Mesar family's alpacas.

"It’s just odd I have these sudden issues I didn’t have prior," she said. "I’ve had a stillbirth. I’ve had one actually have a miscarriage on Friday, a boy with an undiagnosed neurological disorder and four different parasites. I’ve never had any of these issues before."

News 5 contacted Quasar about the land and spoke at length with its president, Mel Kurtz, who emphasized that plans have not been finalized or fully decided as to what will happen at the property.

Over the course of 30 minutes, Kurtz detailed ideas for a possible tree farm, where biosolids would be injected into the ground to help spur the growth of trees on the property.

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Quasar provided this photo to News 5 to illustrate what a tree farm could look like in Grafton Township. Quasar President Mel Kurtz said he's still unsure what kind of tree would be planted.

“We’re buying land because it's a smart thing to do,” he said.

Kurtz emphasized in a phone conversation Monday that no biosolids have been placed on the placed at the property in preparation for a tree farm at this point.

During a Township Trustee meeting on July 12, Kurtz told trustees he planned on putting in a biosolids lagoon. However, Kurtz told News 5 that he has since changed his mind and that there are no plans at this time for a biosolids processing facility, digester or lagoon.

As the U.S. EPA explains, there are two different classifications for biosolids:

Biosolids are divided into “Class A” and “Class B” designations based on treatment methods. The different classes have specified treatment requirements for pollutants, pathogens and vector attraction reduction, as well as general requirements and management practices. 40 CFR Part 503 treatment processes for Class A biosolids eliminate pathogens, including viruses. Generally, pathogens may exist when requirements are met under 40 CFR Part 503 for Class B biosolids, which is why EPA’s site restrictions that allow time for pathogen degradation should be followed for harvesting crops and turf, for grazing of animals, and public contact.

David Emerman serves as Assistant Chief for the Division of Surface Water at the Ohio EPA and told News 5 the only biosolids request in front of them right now for the Grafton Township property is for a regulated Class B biosolids tree farm with a storage pad.

"All of the permits that we do issue, when we do issue them, have certain requirements for best management practices that ensure that these practices are done in a manner that's safe for human health and the environment," Emerman said.

"The land application of biosolids has been going on for thousands of years," Emerman added.

"When you flush your toilet, it goes somewhere, and right now they’re trying to dump that in your rural communities," Harlan argued. "We need to get some rules in place to at least protect the neighborhoods that it is affecting."

According to the U.S. EPA, here's how biosolids are regulated:

  • Establish numeric limits and management practices that protect public health and the environment from the reasonably anticipated adverse effects of chemical and microbial pollutants during the use or disposal of sewage sludge.
  • Review sewage sludge (biosolids) regulations every two years to identify any additional pollutants that may occur in biosolids, and then set regulations for those pollutants if sufficient scientific evidence shows they may harm human health or the environment.
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