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Press Release

Power Plant Owner Pleads Guilty to Failing to Remove 224,000 Square Feet of Asbestos Before Demolishing Power Plant for Scrap Metal

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Ohio

CINCINNATI – Mark Harris, 59, of Versailles, Ky., pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to knowingly failing to remove asbestos in a South Point, Ohio electric power plant.


Benjamin C. Glassman, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, Jennifer Lynn, Special Agent in Charge, Criminal Enforcement Program, United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Laurie A. Stevenson, Director, Ohio EPA and Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced the plea entered into yesterday afternoon before U.S. District Judge Susan J. Dlott.


Harris was the majority owner and operator of South Point Biomass Generation LLC. He acquired the coal burning electric power plant on Collins Avenue in South Point to convert it to a power generating plant that would use renewable energy.


The plant contained seven dormant coal-burning boilers along with their associated piping.


According to court documents, Harris commissioned an asbestos survey on the boiler room in 2008, which revealed nearly 224,000 square feet of materials containing asbestos.


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.


Harris pleaded guilty to one count of violating the Clean Air Act.


The parties involved have recommended two days in prison, 58 days of house arrest and 200 hours of community service as a sentence in this case. Judge Dlott will consider that recommendation at a future sentencing hearing.


“The defendant knew the rules regarding the legal removal of asbestos containing materials, but ignored them,” said Jennifer Lynn, Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Ohio. “In this way, he threatened not only the environment but the safety of those working at the site and the general public. This case demonstrates that EPA and its partner agencies will not abide those who try to make money by breaking the law.”


“This man will answer for his misdeeds thanks to a successful collaboration between my office, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. EPA and the U.S. Attorney’s Office,” Ohio Attorney General Yost said. “Laws outlining the proper removal of asbestos are in place to protect human health and environment. People who choose to ignore these laws will face criminal consequences.”


U.S. Attorney Glassman commended the investigation of this case by the U.S. EPA, Ohio EPA, and Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI), as well as Assistant United States Attorney Kyle J. Healey, who is representing the United States in this case.

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Updated January 29, 2019