Biomass should listen to EPA; pitch tobacco

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Tribune Editorial Staff

Requests from the Ohio EPA to remove a stockpile of tobacco from the Biomass site have apparently fallen on deaf ears.

Since March, the OEPA has asked the company to address the

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violation of several open dumping laws associated with the storage of the tobacco.

Biomass agreed to burn 112,408 tons of surplus tobacco in its boilers through a $2 million contract with the United States Department of Agriculture. Approximately 10,181 tons of tobacco is stored at the facility, and the USDA has since stopped shipments.

On Tuesday, the OEPA ordered Biomass to remove the product. The company has until July 29 to remove and properly dispose of the tobacco.

The OEPA contends that the tobacco laying around may lead to storm water runoff and ground water pollution. Should that pollution get into the Ohio River, fish and other wildlife would also be in danger.

Some fear burning the product in boilers will create a health hazard for the people of Lawrence County. We hear all of the reports about second-hand smoke. Could you imagine 121,448 tons of tobacco byproduct polluting the air? And, quite frankly, Biomass does not have a permit to burn the tobacco.

By storing it on site, the OEPA views the tobacco stockpile as a case of open dumping. The agency maintains Biomass has haphazardly stored the tobacco, as the boxes it was shipped in have fallen apart and the tobacco has basically fallen out. By doing so, the OEPA says, Biomass has essentially established a solid waste disposal facility with no permit.

Biomass feels strongly th at the materials are not solid waste, but the EPA disagrees. If the OEPA has concerns about the health and safety of the citizens of Lawrence County, so do we. And, being a good neighbor, so should Biomass.

We implore Biomass to do the right thing and resolve the violations associated with the tobacco on its site. Not doing so will do nothing but tarnish the credibility of the company.