Piqua residents seek answers from Commission


By Eamon Baird

[email protected]

PIQUA — Residents returned to vent their frustration and seek answers in the aftermath of the Energy Safety Response Group’s (ESRG) lithium battery burning during the Piqua Commission meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 17.

Over 20 people came up to speak during the public comments section of the meeting with many of them expressing displeasure toward the commissioners and City Manager Paul Oberdorfer.

On Sept. 22, 2023, the Ohio EPA and Regional Air Pollution Control Agency (RAPCA) agreed that ESRG cease all destructive and non-destructive testing, and determined the lithium-ion battery testing performed by ESRG was beyond the scope of the permissions the City of Piqua was granted.

Before entering into the public comments segment of the meeting, Oberdorfer read the following statement:

“Beginning in 2018, the city of Piqua entered into an agreement with Bowling Green State University State Fire School to provide beneficial fire safety training for our fire department and other regional fire departments.

The training was part of a research and development initiative, which provided limited small-scale testing of lithium-ion batteries in a controlled environment, under a permit by the Regional Air Pollution Control Agency or RAPCA. The partnership was expected to increase the economic vitality of the community by adding jobs and other community benefits that go along with the valuable training and fire research.

In each stage, the operations were reviewed and permitted by the appropriate regulatory agencies, the Ohio EPA and RAPCA. The test continued with regular reporting between Jan. 18 of 2018 and Sept. 22 of 2023; no citations or violations were issued to the city or Energy Safety Response Group (ESRG) by RAPCA, or the Ohio EPA for the site during that period, up until Sept. 22 of this year.

On Sept. 19, 2023, it was discovered that the ESRG had expanded its operations beyond the limitations of their permit, and once identified, swift action was taken to notify the Ohio EPA and RAPCA. Because the operations exceeded the scope of the issued permit, the Ohio EPA issued a notice of violation to ESRG on Sept. 27, 2023. All ESRG operations ceased on Sept. 22, 2023, and he has already agreed to vacate the site,”

During the public comments section of the meeting, Jeff Lange took exception to the city manager’s statement.

“The city of Piqua Commission did know about the burning and the concerns by this citizen specifically on Feb. 25, 2021, when I brought it up in person to the fire chief and also by phone call,” Lange said.

Scott Phillips thanked the commission for finally stopping the battery burning, but expressed concern over the disposal.

“Now, the next thing on the agenda is to remove all the toxins, all the batteries. And yes, I know they have 60 days to do that. We’re 20 days into it. And guess what? I go out there every other day. And you know what, how much action I’d say? Zero. I haven’t seen a single load of anything leaving there,” Phillips said.

Debbie Stein asked Oberdorfer when the fire training would begin on the site, and he replied sometime after Nov. 22. Stein expressed concern over possible long-term effects of lithium-ion exposure at the site.

“It might be 10 years down the road before these symptoms are going to show up, but they are going to show up. Please, do not let the training begin there until you know, as commissioner, that it is clean and it is safe,” Stein said.

Melanie Walker said the lithium battery burning is an important topic of conversation and should stay on the agenda for future meetings. However, she also expressed that the ongoing hostility at these meetings can be harmful to the Piqua community.

“I’d like to see us come together and be more positive about our city, and you all about you love it, and you want to be involved with it. Well, do love it and do something positive. I think it’s great that it’s all been brought to our attention. I don’t think it’s any one person’s fault what’s happened. But we need to fix the problem now and make some good vibes about the city of Piqua,” Walker said.

No posts to display