A trial has begun this week in Cleveland, Ohio, to determine whether the operator of a waste dump on the outskirts of the city would be responsible for paying back $9 million in cleanup costs after it was revealed the site contains asbestos and other toxic waste.
George Riley was an operator of Acro Recycling, which ran a landfill in East Cleveland. Riley billed the facility as a construction and demolition recycling facility, and according to court records, did so to avoid paying fees and adhering to regulations.
From 2014 to 2017, Riley disposed of asbestos materials, and other waste containing arsenic and lead, at the site. It is alleged that the contamination of the site led to nearby residents becoming ill.
“So why did he bother calling himself a recycler? Well, it’s to purposely exploit a loophole in the law,” Assistant Ohio Attorney General Pearl Chin told Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Shannon Gallagher in opening statements.
“Mr. Riley believed that the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) couldn’t touch him because it didn’t regulate facilities that recycle construction and demolition debris.”
The site was closed in January of 2017, following an intervention by the Ohio EPA. Regulators assessed the site and found more than 244,000 cubic metres of waste. The nature of the materials, often discarded construction material, meant it was extremely flammable and at one point, did ignite.
Eight months after the site was closed, the local EPA cleared more than 180,000 tons of contaminated material.
The Ohio EPA sued Mr Riley and the company he operated in order to recoup the money paid for the cleanup, and is also pursuing fines. The EPA have also asked that Mr Riley and his company be banned from working with construction and demolition services in the state.