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Biomass fined for cleanup failure

Judge Richard Walton penalized Biomass Energy LLC on Thursday with a $109,000 fine and a $522,000 performance bond for failure to clean up waste from its South Point site in The Point Industrial Park.

The bond was relinquished to the state of Ohio.

Last December, the late Judge Frank McCown ordered the removal of about 33,000 tons of coal and coke waste from the Biomass site.

The judge warned the company at that time that he would impose the penalty and performance bond if the site were not cleaned up.

McCown also warned that jail time might be an option for Biomass officials, but Judge Walton did not impose any jail time Thursday.

“They are still subject to the existing order,” said Jim Leach, spokesman for the Ohio EPA. “It’s my understanding that basically the only thing the judge ruled on was that they did not comply with the cleanup order. We’ll wait and see if we get the money. I think it’s important to note that they are still subject to the clean up order.”

Mark Harris, CEO of Biomass Energy LLC, claims that the coal and coke waste is not a health hazard and the public should not worry about it. He said that he just did not have the money to remove the waste from the site.

“We haven’t been assessed the fine yet,” Harris said Friday. “It’s on the EPA’s shoulders now. The hypocritical part of this is that the coal has been there for 50 years. It’s not an environmental hazard.”

Harris said that when they had an air permit to burn coal they had two boilers that burned coal and five that burned wood. When Biomass changed the air permit to burn only wood, he said the EPA stepped in and “the coal became waste overnight.”

“Now they’ve got $522,000 of our money, I wish them the best of luck,” Harris said.