Piqua holds special meeting amid ongoing concern


By Eamon Baird

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PIQUA — The city of Piqua held a special open house meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 15, with members of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Regional Air Pollution Control Agency (RAPCA), Miami County Health Department and Piqua city officials for members of the public to attend amidst the fallout from the Energy Safety Response Group (ESRG) lithium battery testing.

ESRG is a business at the center of community uproar from Piqua city residents due to its lithium battery burn testing at the site of the old Piqua Water Treatment Plant on state Route 66.

On Sept. 22, 2023, the Ohio EPA and RAPCA agreed ESRG was to cease all destructive and non-destructive testing and determined the lithium-ion battery testing was beyond the scope of the permissions the city of Piqua was granted.

The meeting was structured with members from each agency stationed at tables in Ulysses S. Grant room at the Fort Piqua Plaza to answer questions from small groups. This led to some frustration and confusion by citizens expecting the meeting to be conducted differently.

“I wanted them to answer directly to my questions, and then we get to go up to the podium and ask them all questions,” Jeff Grimes said.

Grimes has asked questions during every commission meeting and is frustrated by the lack of responses from government officials.

“I’m really concerned about there’s already these forever chemicals and the city released a report that said the water is fine? — Right, no problem; the Ohio EPA said the water is fine. Go to the federal EPA, and here’s our water. The water supply public drinking is impaired,” Grimes said.

Paul Oberdorfer, Piqua city manager, issued a press release on Nov. 13 which stated the following regarding the current drinking water and lab results:

“The city of Piqua today released results of a series of tests of conditions at the former water plant as well as drinking water sources throughout the city. Piqua, with input from Ohio EPA, contracted with a third-party independent sampling and laboratory to test the city’s water sources and treated water supply. Test results were received by the city Friday, Nov. 10, and reviewed by Ohio EPA. Results from the city’s drinking water plant confirm it’s acceptable for drinking, bathing, and cooking and results from source waters in the area show no concerning levels of contamination.

“Out of an abundance of caution and in coordination with the Ohio EPA, the city of Piqua will perform soil sampling and groundwater testing and the Ohio EPA will perform air modeling to determine if any contamination has occurred as a result of the battery testing operations that occurred at the former water plant.”

Tom Hohman was appointed the new ward four commissioner on Nov. 7. A resident of Piqua for two years, Hohman said his goal as a new commissioner is to help bridge the gap between citizens and government officials.

“I think people are going to need to digest the data. The data seems to show that the water seems to be fine. I think that there should probably be some kind of ongoing monitoring. It seems like we dodged a bullet catching this as early as we did. It seemed like the burn rate was accelerating dramatically; another couple of years could have been a real problem,” Hohman said.

While Hohman admitted the meeting format could have been clearer to the public, he expressed the importance of being transparent with the residents of the city of Piqua.

“Tonight is really the start of that transparency, showing the results and having these groups to come out and allowing the people to ask questions,” Hohman said.

Oberdorfer said ESRG has until Nov. 22. to have everything cleared out from where they were conducting their lithium-ion battery testing. He hopes to have more information to share with the public at the next city commission meeting on Nov. 21 at 6 p.m. in the Municipal Government Complex.

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