EPA wants Biomass to respond

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 25, 2003

SOUTH POINT - Even after three visits in June by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency,

Biomass Energy LLC has still not begun removing tobacco stored at its South Point property.

The OEPA sent a certified letter to Biomass dated June 23 that outlined the EPA's stance that the Nicholasville, Ky.- based company is still in violation of several open dumping laws and has not complied with four parts of an order to begin addressing the situation.

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"Our orders say it must be removed by July 29. They did contain certain milestones that are not being met," EPA spokesman Jim Leach said. "If we do not have compliance by the end of July, then the likely course of action will be to refer it to the Attorney General's office."

Earlier this year, Biomass agreed to a $2 million contract with the United States Department of Agriculture to destroy 112,448 tons of surplus tobacco.

Shipments were stopped by the USDA in March after concerns were raised about the storage and disposal of the material, but more than 10,181 tons of tobacco was already on site.

In the order, dated May 30 and hand delivered to the company, the OEPA gave the company until July 29 to dispose of the tobacco properly. Four guidelines within the order have still not been met, the June 23 letter stated.

The order requires the company to begin putting impermeable covers over the tobacco waste, to begin immediately collecting and properly disposing of all leachate generated at the property, to begin removing the tobacco by June 14 and to provide the EPA with documentation of all the ordered actions.

"Since my previous Notice of Violation letter dated May 12, 2003, it appears that Biomass has made no efforts to remove and properly dispose of the large amounts of solid wastes (openly) dumped on this property," stated the letter, written by Clint Shuff, environmental specialist for the OEPA's Division of Solid and Infectious Waste Southeast District Office.

Biomass must contact the EPA within 15 days to notify the agency of to

plans to address the situation, the letter stated.

Mark Harris, CEO of Biomass, has repeatedly declined to comment on the situation. Biomass attorney Anthony Giulliani, of the Columbus-based firm Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP did not return messages left by The Ironton Tribune.

The May 30 order can be appealed to the Environmental Review Appeals Commission before June 29. Harris has not indicated whether or not the company planned to do so.

Originally, Biomass' plan was to burn the tobacco with wood waste after the company completes a $100 million renovation of its plant by early next year.

Biomass currently has a permit to burn wood and wood waste, but does not have operational furnaces and does not have a permit to burn or store the tobacco.