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Lawsuit Over Recycling-Plant-Turned-Dump Moves Forward Without Defendants

Some East Cleveland residents who say a recycling company turned its site into an illegal dumping ground are closer to having their day in court. 

Judge Carolyn Friedland of the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas signed an order Monday granting the residents' request for a default judgment hearing after the defendant, Arco Recycling, Inc., failed to respond to the plaintiffs' initial lawsuit. If Arco is a no-show at an upcoming December 21 hearing, the residents could automatically win the case.

The 27 plaintiffs are seeking upwards of about $700,000 based on Arco's alleged failure to adequately recycle the material it took in. In their complaint, the residents say that from mid-2014 to early 2017, Arco created a nuisance by allowing large piles of waste to accumulate, forcing nearby homes to contend with dust and odor.

"The smells have become so toxic as to inhibit their use and enjoyment of their neighboring, residential properties," the lawsuit said. "[Arco] was not limiting its intake to only recyclable construction and demolition debris, and was, instead, utilizing the property as landfill."

Arco bought the site at 1705 Noble Road from the city of East Cleveland in 2014 for the purpose of recycling construction and demolition debris such as concrete, wood, and metal. But in January, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA ) ordered the site closed after inspections indicated that it was not operating as a recycler, but rather as an “illegal disposal facility.”

The residents filed the suit in August, several weeks after the Ohio Attorney General's Office ordered Arco to allow the OEPA and the Cuyahoga County Board of Health to clean up and monitor the site. Between July, when the clean up began, and November, the Board of Health says about 114,000 cubic yards of debris have been cleared. That's about half of the estimated total 230,000 cubic yards of waste.

Although Arco has been ordered to reimburse the OEPA for the estimated $6 million cost of the clean-up and monitoring efforts, it is not clear whether the company or its owners will be able to pay. According to federal court filings, one of the company's alleged owners, Christina Beynon, filed for bankruptcy earlier this year.

Ideastream attempted to contact Arco, its state-registered agent, and its attorney, but none could be reached for comment.

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