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Ohio company faces actions on asbestos, taxes

Jan. 09, 2014 @ 12:00 AM

SOUTH POINT, Ohio -- The Portsmouth Local Air Agency has issued a notice of violation concerning the handling of asbestos at the South Point Biomass Generation property in the South Point area.

Meanwhile, the office of Lawrence County Prosecuting Attorney Brigham Anderson is preparing to file a foreclosure action against the 88-acre Biomass property, saying the company has not paid county taxes for the past three years. The property is not in the village of South Point, but is surrounded by The Point, a 500-acre industrial park which is in the village limits.

"They owe $27,000 in back taxes," Anderson said. "We'll be filing the foreclosure action this month."

More than a dozen years ago, Biomass officials proposed building a multimillion-dollar generating plant to produce electricity at the site. The plant was to burn wood waste. No such plant has ever been built, and on several occasions county officials have filed suit seeking back taxes on the property.

The Portsmouth Local Air Agency, which handles air quality issues for the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, received a complaint last fall about how Biomass employees were handling asbestos fibers during a demolition metal scrapping work being done on the third floor of the power house building.

Samples of suspect regulated asbestos-containing materials were observed at several locations in the building on Oct. 22, and analysis confirmed that friable regulated asbestos-containing materials were found at the site, according to the notice of violation. Two partial adjacent buildings to the power house building also had been demolished and removed, according to the notice.

"A notice of violation was issued," said Cindy Charles, director of the Portsmouth Local Air Agency which covers Lawrence, Scioto, Brown and Adams counties. "It's an ongoing investigation, and I can't comment further."

Mark Harris, Biomass owner, couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday.

"This was reported by a private citizen," said South Point Mayor Ron West. "The property isn't located in the village, but it does concern us. Apparently they have stopped doing it."

Biomass failed to notify the proper agency before the demolition work in a building containing asbestos, according to the notice of violation. State regulations require the asbestos to be removed from a building prior to demolition, and that wasn't done at the power plant building, according to the notice of violation.

"It was observed that the contractor was not using water to control dust from the mechanical demolition activities," according to the notice of violation. "The contractor was observed demolishing/scrapping in the power house building at the South Point Generation Biomass facility without using water spray to control visible emissions being created by the demolition activities."

The materials were being placed in an open and unlined roll-off box, another violation, according to the notice.

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