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Cleanup Of East Cleveland Dumping Ground Will Cost Millions More Than Expected

A months-long effort to clean up the site of an illegal dumping ground in East Cleveland will be complete sometime in February, according to state environmental and health officials, but the cost will be at least 50 percent higher than originally planned. 

The Ohio Controlling Board on Monday approved an additional $3.2 million to clean up the former site of Arco recycling, bringing the total cost to around $9 million.

When the Ohio Envrionmental Protection Agency (OPEA) began removing the mountains of construction and demolition material from the site last summer, the estimated cost was around $6 million. A spokesman for the OPEA said a series of spontaneous debris fires last fall added to the expense of removing the debris, and spurred them to expedite the timeline for the project.

"Are we done done? No, because we have to figure out what kind of damage was done," said State Senator Kenny Yuko, who represents the area. 

The state needs to do more than get rid of the garbage, Yuko said. On top of monitoring the area for environmental toxins, he hopes regulators will take additional steps to track residents' long-term health. 

The OPEA has been conducting weekly air quality tests. A spokesman for the agency said that, so far, none of the tests have exceeded federal health standards.

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 OEPA ordered the site closed after inspections indicated that it was not operating as a recycler, but rather as an “illegal disposal facility.”

A lawsuit against Arco, brought by residents who live near the site, is currently pending in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas. 

"Once the removal is done, there isn't anything to be worried about," said Barry Grisez, Supervisor Cuyahoga County Board of Health. Once the debris is removed, Grisez said, the site will mainly be a flat expanse of dirt and concrete. And because the OEPA's air quality tests have not revealed a current health risk, there are currently no plans to monitor the long-term health of nearby residents. Nevertheless, Yuko said he will advocate for additional measures to address residents' concerns about health.

"We need to make sure and ensure these people that we're restoring their quality of life to how it used to be," Yuko said.

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