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Biomass cited by EPA for handling of asbestos in Ohio

Feb. 12, 2014 @ 12:00 AM

IRONTON -- Biomass, a South Point area company, has been cited by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency for the shoddy handling of asbestos at one of its buildings and could face fines of up to $25,000 per day. Meanwhile, county officials filed a foreclosure action against the company to seek more than $40,000 in back taxes the company owes.

In an order dated Friday, the state agency ordered the owners of the former South Point Ethanol plant not to demolish any more buildings at the site, to hire a licensed asbestos abatement contractor and for the asbestos found at the site to be removed and disposed of at a licensed landfill no later than June 1.

Brenda Neville, a Chesapeake lawyer, has been hired as an assistant Lawrence County prosecutor primarily to handle unpaid taxes, according to Prosecuting Attorney Brigham Anderson. Neville has served as special prosecutor, primarily in criminal cases, when there was a conflict. She has served in that capacity for the past 17 years.

Neville started working Jan. 1. Her first suits involved a foreclosure action against Biomass, also called South Point Biomass Generating, in the South Point area. The company has owned the former South Point Ethanol property for more than a dozen years.

It's not the first time the company had to be prompted to pay county taxes, said County Treasurer Stephen Dale Burcham. The company owes more than $40,000 in back taxes for 2011 and 2012, according to court filings.

"We're taking a more aggressive role to collecting back taxes," Anderson said Tuesday. "Brenda is an excellent lawyer. Her sole responsibility will be the collection and enforcement of taxes. She has served as a special prosecutor for the office for a number of years."

"Most people pay their taxes on time," Anderson said. "In some cases, they do it even when it's a hardship. Corporations should have to pay their taxes like everyone else."

"These tax cases are really important," Neville said. "The county needs the money."

The foreclosure action seeks to recover $40,847.55 in back taxes.

"I'm very pleased there will be someone dedicated to assisting our office in the collection of taxes," Burcham said. "Seventy percent of that money will go to South Point schools."

Biomass principals proposed building a wood-waste burning facility to generate electricity at the South Point Ethanol site. However, the project has never gone forward.

Craig W. Butler, interim director of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, said in his eight-page order that Biomass officials haven responded to a notice of violation issued by the Portsmouth Local Air Agency last Oct. 24.

During inspections last fall, the local agency determined that the company wasn't properly handling materials containing asbestos and was dumping the potential cancer-causing materials in an open-air container. Several people, including South Point Mayor Ron West reported to the agency about the company's handling of asbestos.

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