• 61°

Owner of Biomass sentenced: Harris will serve two days in jail, house arrest

The owner of the failed South Point Biomass company has been sentenced in a federal court this week.

In January, Mark Harris, 59, of Versailles, Kentucky, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati to one count of violating the Clean Air Act for knowingly failing to remove the asbestos from the site.

On Tuesday, Harris was sentenced to two days in prison, 58 days of house arrest and 200 hours of community service, which was decided on as part of Harris’ plea agreement.

South Point Biomass bought the former South Point Ethanol powerhouse in 1999.

The company wanted to use the seven dormant coal burning boilers, and 80 acres of land as part of an effort to convert it into a power plant that would generate 200 megawatts of electricity using wood waste and tobacco waste materials.

But that project fell through, with its owners blaming the economic crisis of 2008 and other factors.

The company cut out pipes for scrap metal and didn’t follow proper asbestos abatement procedures.

According to a press release from the United States Attorney’s Office, “Beginning in 2011 through October 2013, Harris and others removed approximately two and a half million pounds of metal from the facility and sold it as scrap. Harris knew significant portions of the metal removed were covered in asbestos.

He directed others to help him cut through the asbestos labeling on several pipes in order to obtain the scrap metal underneath. The asbestos was stripped from the metal while dry and left on each of the six floors of the power plant.”

The U.S. EPA, Ohio EPA, and Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation investigated the case.

South Point Biomass still owns the lots around the powerhouse and owes Lawrence County $30,692.03 in back property taxes.

Last month, the U.S. EPA began cleaning up the site of asbestos, drums and cylinders from the powerhouse, asbestos piles and contaminated soil from the site around the old powerhouse after the company took out pipes and old equipment for its scrap metal value and left the asbestos on ground in 2008.

The U.S. EPA has estimated that it will take at least five months for the clean up to be completed.