Ohio EPA responds to Universal Farms inquiry

By Ken McEntee

The Ohio EPA has continued to work with Universal Farms LLC, a composting operation in Fremont, while the company works through environmental compliance issues, an agency spokeswoman said.

OEPA did not reply to a request for an interview from Composting News in time prior to the publication of a report in which Douglas Crowell, owner of Universal Farms said he was being “regulated out of business” by OEPA, adding that the various departments within the agency were not coordinated with one another.

Following publication of the article, spokeswoman Dina Pierce emailed the following:

Universal Farms is subject to the same requirements as other composting and mulching businesses. Ohio EPA supports composting, but state regulations must be followed. Ohio EPA looks forward to continuing to work with this company.

Universal Landscaping (sic) is an Ohio EPA-registered Class III composting facility. Class III facilities can accept yard waste, agricultural waste and animal waste.

The facility has the air pollution permits it requires, including permits for a grinder, screen and paved and unpaved roadways. The facility is in compliance with terms in the permits.

Several months ago, Ohio EPA responded to a surface water runoff complaint, the source of which was tracked back to the Universal Farms location. The company’s owner was informed that he needed a storm water management plan and coverage under an industrial storm water general permit. He complied and filed the storm water management plan and applied for the permit, which is pending.

Ohio EPA also informed the business that leachate runoff, which is storm water that has infiltrated the compost and mulch piles, cannot be discharged and that he would need to get a wastewater permit stating how the leachate would be captured. The facility’s owner can determine which method would work best for his site. Ohio EPA will review the option and design as part of the permitting process. (Examples include constructing a detention pond, pumping leachate to a storage tank to be disposed off-site.)

Ohio EPA’s Northwest District Office continues to work with the company’s owner to resolve compliance issues.

Although Crowell has complied with OEPA’s demand for a stormwater management plan, and said has created a retention pond to capture runoff, he continues to insist that his operation was not the source of a contaminated creek near his property. Crowell said a film that resembles detergent residue continues to float on the creek, and believes it originates upstream from his operation.

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