U.S. EPA investigating two Ohio asphalt companiesCOLUMBUS, Ohio – Federal clean air regulators have asked two Ohio asphalt manufacturers to turn over records for six plants, saying that the documents could be used in a civil or criminal court case.The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency won’t say why they are investigating Miller Pavement Maintenance and Shelly Materials. Ohio EPA officials said they haven’t been told.Environmental groups say growing concerns about odors and pollution from asphalt plants and the lack of state oversight prompted the investigation.Many of Ohio’s 312 plants operate without mandatory state operating permits – including the six plants the U.S. EPA is investigating, Ohio officials said.Ohio EPA officials enforce clean air standards for asphalt plants but say the state doesn’t have the time or personnel to process all the operating permits.The permits state how many tons of pollutants a plant can release into the air each year while making blacktop for Ohio’s highways.Mike Riggleman, an Ohio EPA supervisor of air quality permits, said the state frequently lets plants work under temporary one-year permits, as long as they have filed applications for operating permits.”They still have to meet air quality standards, and that’s the bottom line,” Riggleman said.The agency acknowledged that the Miller asphalt plant in Columbus has operated for more than five years without any permit.Records show Miller filed for a new permit in February, days after the U.S. EPA sent the company its letter.Peter Miller, owner of the plant, called the letter a routine request for information.”We’ve maintained our asphalt plant impeccably,” Miller said. “You go into a bar where everyone is smoking, you’d probably get more damage from that than if you live next to an asphalt plant.”Four of the other five plants, all owned by Shelly, are in good standing by state standards. They are located in Columbus, Lancaster, Springfield and Camden.Shelly’s plant in suburban Westerville is applying for a temporary permit after it failed a smokestack test in August 2002. Shelly executives could not be reached for comment Sunday.Demands for internal records are the first official steps the U.S. EPA takes when it suspects Clean Air Act violations. Officials could continue, or drop their investigations, depending on the answers, said U.S. EPA spokesman Bill Omohundro.Information from: The Columbus Dispatch
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