The state of Ohio has reached a $16.5 million partial settlement in its lawsuit against the operators of an illegal East Cleveland dump — but collecting that money will be a difficult task.
The deal puts Arco Recycling and 1705 Noble Road Properties LLC on the hook for $9.1 million in cleanup costs and $5 million in civil penalties. The companies are effectively valueless, according to documents filed in bankruptcy court last year, and Arco has been defunct since the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency shut it down in 2017.
The settlement also levies a $2.3 million penalty against Christina Beynon, who owned both companies. But the state has agreed to hold the fine in “perpetual abeyance” because Beynon is unable to pay, according to the deal.
The agreement also would ban Beynon from the construction and demolition debris business in Ohio.
George Michael Riley Sr., whom the state attorney general also accuses of running Arco, is not a part of the settlement. The state’s civil case against Riley is scheduled for trial in September.
The state seeks to hold Riley and a demolition company liable for cleanup costs and civil penalties, according to Dominic Binkley, a spokesman for Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost.
Ohio may be able to recoup some of the money by taking out liens on property owned by companies in the settlement, Binkley wrote in an email. Noble Road Properties holds the title to the former Arco site, which the county currently values at $277,000.
Judge Shannon M. Gallagher, who is overseeing the case in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, has not yet approved the settlement.
Demolition companies connected to Riley collected millions of dollars in taxpayer money — including federal funds — from the Cuyahoga Land Bank to knock down vacant houses in Northeast Ohio, dumping much of the debris at Arco.
The mounting pile of rubble infuriated East Cleveland neighbors and activists. Arco closed in January 201, by order of the state EPA, and embarked upon an expensive, months-long cleanup. Multiple emergency agencies responded to a fire at the site in late 2017.
Neighbors sued Arco in August 2017, winning by default the following year after no one from the company responded to the suit.
In 2018, Riley changed his name to Anthony Michael Castello and opened businesses in Steubenville. His lawyer declined to comment on this story.
Beynon did not respond to ideastream's request for comment.