Bio-Energy Plant’s Neighbors Cry Foul

CLEVELAND (CN) – Cleveland residents fed up with noxious odors from a nearby bio-energy facility filed a class-action lawsuit claiming the facility, which supplies green energy to the local electric utility, is a nuisance that diminishes area property values.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court names Collinwood Bio Energy LLC as the sole defendant.

The facility on Aspinwall Avenue uses micro-organisms to digest food waste, expired beverages and other fats, oils and greases, producing gas that is then converted into electricity. The process also produces a residual byproduct that is used as a soil nutrient for local farms.

However, in addition to renewable energy, the facility also generates foul odors that invade neighboring properties “on occasions too numerous to mention,” nearby residents claims.

“By failing to reasonably repair and maintain its facility, Defendant has negligently created an unreasonable risk of harm by causing the invasion of plaintiffs’ property by noxious odors,” the complaint states. “Such failures include, but are not limited to, inadequate control of the emissions arising from Defendant’s internal bio-gas dome.”

The lead plaintiffs in the case – Michelle Davis, Tanya Higgins and Christina Jones – say the smells emanating from Collinwood’s facility have robbed them of the ability to enjoy the outside areas of their properties. They even claim the odors have woken them up in the middle of the night.

They’re seeking to represent a class of property owners and occupants living within one mile of Collinwood’s facility, which is located on the grounds of a former General Motors plant on the east side of Cleveland.

The lawsuit claims Collinwood has a well-documented history of failing to control emissions, and it cites notices of violation issued by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the Cleveland Division of Air quality.

The complaint also notes that Collinwood and its parent company, Quasar Energy Group, have already been sued by Ohio over the noxious emissions from Quasar’s four anaerobic digester facilities in Northeastern Ohio.

In that case, Quasar argued that its facilities, including Collinwood’s, are co-located with publicly owned wastewater treatment plants that are the actual source of most, if not all, of the offending odors.

Ohio eventually dismissed that lawsuit without prejudice in March.

The plaintiffs in Wednesday’s class action seek compensatory damages, including pre- and post-judgment interest, and attorney fees.

They are represented by Daniel Petrov of Thorman Petrov Group in Cleveland, and by Laura Sheets and Brandon Brown of the Michigan law firm Liddle & Dubin PC.

Quasar Energy Group did not immediately respond Thursday to a phone call seeking comment.

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