Ohio EPA notifies Biomass of violations

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 2, 2003

After informing the South Point company last week that it was in violation, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has sent a written

notice to Biomass Energy LLC, ordering the removal of tobacco and other materials stored on the property.

Earlier this year,

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Biomass Energy agreed to a $2 million contract with the United States Department of Agriculture to destroy 121,448 tons of surplus tobacco and 10,030 tons of cardboard boxes.

The shipments were stopped by the USDA earlier this month while the issue was investigated after village residents and officials contacted the Ohio EPA.

Approximately 10,000 tons of tobacco is already stored at the facility and must be removed along with some wood waste and approximately 35,000

tons of a coal and coke mixture that was purchased from the Allied Signal plant but never disposed of, said David Chenault, manager for the Ohio EPA Southeast District's Solid and Infectious Waste Division.

All three materials are considered a solid waste material by the Ohio EPA and in violation of several open dumping laws. Biomass must respond in writing within 15 days with a plan to remove the materials or be faced with fines, he said.

The EPA had concerns about the storage of the materials because of storm water runoff and ground contamination. Biomass acknowledged these issues, but did not have a plan to address them, Chenault said.

No timeline has been set for the removal, and it is up to Biomass as to how the issue is handled from here, Chenault said.

"They feel strongly that the materials are not solid waste, but the Ohio EPA disagrees," he said.

Mark Harris, CEO of Biomass Energy, said last week the coke and coal materials are already being removed and the issue is now in the hands of

the company's attorneys.

The company's plan was that the tobacco would be burned with wood after the company completes a $100 million renovation of its plant that will begin in April and could be completed in 12 to 15 months.

Biomass currently has a permit to burn wood and wood waste, but does not have operational furnaces to do so. The company does not have a permit to burn the tobacco.