The South Point Biomass Generation Plant in South Point, Ohio, has been issued a notice of violation for improper handling of asbestos, according to Herald-Dispatch.com, an online news site.
The citation was issued by the Portsmouth Local Air Agency, which oversees air quality issues on behalf of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The agency received a complaint last fall from a private citizen who revealed that Biomass employees were coming in contact with asbestos fibers through the course of demolition work being done on the third floor of the building.
An on-site inspection on October 22, 2013, found what later analysis confirmed to be friable, asbestos-containing materials throughout the building, according to the news report.
When asbestos is in a “friable,” or easily crumbled, state, it can be deadly. The microscopic asbestos fibers can become airborne, where they can be inhaled or ingested and lodge in the lungs or stomach and cause serious illness such as mesothelioma, a rare and deadly cancer.
Once the presence of asbestos in the building was confirmed, the notice of violation was issued.
The notice lists several violations, according to the Herald-Dispatch.com, including Biomass’ failure to notify the appropriate agency prior to commencing demolition work in a building containing asbestos, failure to remove the asbestos from the building prior to demolition, and improper storage of asbestos-containing materials.
According to the notice of violation, “It was observed that the contractor was not using water to control dust from the mechanical demolition activities. 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.”
Two buildings next to the power plant building had already been demolished and removed. While it is quite possible that the buildings also contained asbestos, there is now no way of knowing for sure.
Cindy Charles, director of the Portsmouth Local Air Agency, was unable to comment further, as it is an ongoing investigation, and the Herald-Dispatch.com was unable to reach Biomass owner Mark Harris for comment.