Biomass ordered to get rid of tobacco

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 11, 2003

SOUTH POINT - Get rid of it.

That's the order the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has given Biomass Energy, LLC, who has until July 29 to dispose of 10,181 tons

of tobacco from its South Point site. According to a media release issued Tuesday, the order requires the company to begin removal within 15 days.

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Spokesman Jim Leach said the OEPA views the tobacco stockpile as a case of open dumping.

"They took the tobacco, but they didn't have a permit to burn it," Leach said. "They have an air permit, but it does not allow for the burning of tobacco. It's very sloppily placed out there. It was brought in in boxes, but the boxes have fallen apart and the tobacco has basically fallen out. So, in fact, they did establish a solid waste disposal facility, for which they had no permit."

The OEPA has ordered Biomass to "immediately begin putting impermeable covers over the tobacco waste and to begin immediately collecting and properly disposing of all leachate generated at the property," according to the media release.

Biomass agreed to accept 121,448 tons of waste from the United States Department of Agriculture, but the federal agency suspended shipment of all products after the OEPA notified them of the violations at the site. Biomass had planned to burn the tobacco with wood after the company completed a $100 million renovation of its plant.

Biomass is further ordered to document its compliance with the OEPA actions. Biomass must also provide the state agency with disposal receipts from the landfill where the tobacco is taken.

The order is viewed as good news to South Point Mayor Bill Gaskin, who has been a vocal opponent of the tobacco-burning proposal.

"I'm glad the EPA told them to get rid of it, and the sooner the better," Gaskin said. "I thought that they would.

We just don't need that here."

Biomass CEO Mark Harris declined to comment on the OEPA order, other than to say that the company's attorneys are talking with attorneys from the state agency.