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AG suing Biomass, its owners

SOUTH POINT — Mark Harris and his South Point Biomass Generation company is the focus of a lawsuit filled by the Ohio Attorney General’s office.

Attorney General Mike DeWine filed in August against Harris, South Biomass, Harris son, Tyler S. Harris and the son’s company, Renewable Resources, over their alleged illegal demolition and renovation at the Biomass facility adjacent to The Point industrial park.

DeWine filed the action at the written request of the director of the state environmental protection agency.

“Defendants endangered the health of Lawrence County residents due to their illegal and/or renovation activities at the South Point Biomass General facility,” the complaint alleges. “The demolition and/or renovation activities at the facilities caused asbestos — a hazardous air pollutant widely known for its carcinogenic effects — to be discharged into the environment. Since at least October 2013, the unsecured facility continues to be a public nuisance and a threat to the health and safety of its neighbors.”

Biomass purchased property that had been part of the site of the former Ashland Inc. ethanol operation in South Point. It is a development company that has a permit to build a 200-megawatt power plant that would produce electricity that Biomass would then sell to power companies.

The operation has yet to start up because of what Harris called the financial meltdown in 2008. Harris has been the focus of foreclosure lawsuits for not paying county property tax on the site.

The complaint lists 11 counts starting with air nuisance where “defendants have caused, permitted and maintained a public nuisance by the emission or escape into the open air substances or combination of substances, specifically asbestos fibers, in such a manner or in such amounts as to endanger the health, safety, or welfare of the public,” the complaint states.

The Harrises are also charged with maintaining a nuisance, failing to have a certified asbestos hazard evaluation specialist inspect the facility; failing to notify the Ohio EPA of demolition and renovation operation at the site; failing to remove asbestos before demolition and renovation; failing to properly follow practices when removing asbestos; failing to have an authorized representative present at the site; failing to properly store and seal asbestos waste; failing to properly dispose of the waste; and failing to comply with EPA director’s orders.

The complaint seeks for the defendants to secure the site until all asbestos is removed; remove all asbestos; and comply with the Ohio code to handling asbestos.

For each count the defendants can be liable to up to $25,000 a day penalties from Aug. 10.

Attempts to reach Mark Harris were unsuccessful. Harris himself answered the complaint for the defendants responding with either denying the allegations or having insufficient knowledge to respond.