Battery burns concern Piqua residents


By Eamon Baird

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PIQUA — Residents of Piqua packed into the City of Commission Meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 19, to express concern over lithium battery testing by Energy Storage Response Group (ESRG) in a lively discussion.

ESRG received an open burn permit in 2018 with the city of Piqua to perform destructive testing on generators and electric vehicle batteries. ESRG conducts its testing at the old water treatment plant at 9300 state Route 66.

According to a Sept. 5 City Commission agenda report, ESRG is seeking a five-year renewable lease agreement with the city for a monthly fee of $500 and $600 for each burn the company performs.

Now, residents and businesses near the testing site are concerned about the possible consequences of these tests.

Brad Hampshire, owner of Hampshire Cabinetry, discussed the effect of this testing on his business.

“I’ve been breathing this for five years, didn’t know what we were breathing,” Hampshire said.

Hampshire Cabinetry sits 500 feet from the old water treatment plant where ESRG now conducts its testing. Hampshire said these burns emit a plastic-burning smell and that he has had to send people home from work because of the effects.

When asked by the City Commissioners about the plumes of smoke, Hampshire said in the last six months, his business had noticed more of these burns through smell or the plumes of smoke from the facility.

“We did have complaints from many of our workers and several occasions where we had to send someone home,” Hampshire said.

Hampshire said he was increasingly concerned the Piqua City Fire Department and ESRG didn’t give his company ample notice.

“At no time did anyone come up to us and say, ‘Hey, we’re going to be burning this toxic stuff that’s pluming into the air,’” Hampshire said.

Residents who live or work close to these burn tests also expressed concern.

Scott Phillips said the Ohio EPA laid out zones for safe drinking water.

“I take care of Rocky Ridge Lake with five other families. When the winds are wrong, I can’t take my dogs outside,” Phillips said. “So please do the right thing and make this burn plant go away!”

Debbie Stein, who lives close to the old water treatment facility, also expressed concern.

“Why do you want to have these burns in our community? What value is it to you and us as citizens? I know people have gone by there, seen the plumes, and called 911 thinking it’s a fire,” Stein said.

Nick Warner, co-founder and managing principal of ESRG, gave a presentation at the end of the meeting.

“In listening to everybody this evening, I just want to say I hear you; we understand your concerns 100%,” Warner said.

Warner admitted that BSRG hasn’t been completely transparent with the Piqua community.

“In the last 12 months, we have taken on more of these larger scale tests, which, as I’m hearing here now for the first time myself, have become an issue to the community,” he noted.

As a result of these larger-scale tests, Warner said ESRG will petition to change from an open burn permit to an industrial permit.

Piqua City Manager Paul Oberdorfer said ESRG would be meeting the EPA on Sept. 21, and they would give an update on the updated permit status at the next commissioner’s meeting on Oct. 3.

Commissioner Kris Lee thanked the members of the Piqua community for their passion and concern for the community.

“We wouldn’t have a voice if you guys didn’t, so thank you for asking questions. I applaud you guys and know you care,” Lee said.

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