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As Ohio EPA sues Arco owner for clean-up costs, East Cleveland residents hoping for compensation

The state wants back the $9.1 million it spent to clean up the East Cleveland dumpsite. Residents are asking, 'What about us?'

EAST CLEVELAND, Ohio — An Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lawsuit against East Cleveland’s Arco Recycling dump began trial Monday. The state, which paid to clean up the mess, wants to be paid back the $9 million price tag. 

East Cleveland neighbors of the dump are now asking, "what about us?"

Residents who had to live next to the dump at Euclid Avenue and Noble Road for over two years are wondering-- with this new lawsuit-- whether they will receive any money for living with the potentially harmful eyesore. 

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"We know that there have been some instances where the federal government when they settle similar claims with other bad actors, where, as a part of their settlement they create a fund for community," says Ayesha Bell Hardaway, an assistant law professor at Case Western Reserve University.

If the EPA lawsuit doesn’t include a fund for residents who live near the dumpsite, residents could sue Arco Owner, George Michael Riley, themselves. However, that’s an uphill battle, says Hardaway. 

"They have to have the money to finance any such litigation, or a lawyer willing to take the case. They have to be able to identify the damages they seek to recover. After [Riley] pays 9.1 million dollars to the state of Ohio, there may be nothing, or close to nothing, left for any individual bringing a claim," explains Hardaway.

Willie Morrow, who lives across from the dumpsite, says he speaks for many neighbors in the area when he says he couldn’t care less about the EPA’s lawsuit against Riley.

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"If they don’t share none of the money with us -if they can’t share none of the money, forget it," says Morrow, who's lived in his home on Noble road for more than 30 years. 

3News did reach out to the EPA but didn’t hear back by the time that this story was published. 

In the meantime, Riley now goes by a new name, with a new company attached to that name. With this lawsuit, the EPA hopes to end his ties to Ohio's construction and demolition industry altogether.

The trial is expected to conclude by the end of this week.

Editor's note: The video in the player below is from a story published on April 15, 2021.