It’s the classic David and Goliath story. Five individual plaintiffs backed by funds from the Inner Harbor Stewardship Foundation are going up against Caesar’s entertainment which owns the Harrah's brand casino in a lawsuit alleging environmental pollution.
The Casino is planned for a site that was once the home of a heavy industrial area that now runs along Russell Street, behind the many homes of Westport, Maryland residents. One of the plaintiffs, seventy year old Merab Rice, has lived in Westport for over ten years and is quite upset by the plans to excavate and build a casino on land that is known to carry industrial pollutants in the soil.
Despite Rice’s efforts along with her co-plaintiffs, the developers and the state of Maryland just don’t seem to care. Residents, such as Rice are concerned for various reasons, mainly what the construction could unearth and how the pollutants in the soil will affect the nearby park in her neighborhood and river that runs through it. Rice said that evidence backs up the residents’ claims but nobody seems to care so long as the casino project pulls through. “They did a study on the grounds down there and found the contamination and came back and reported it and that’s been all shoved under the carpet and they don't want to comply with that they just want to put this casino up and whatever, how fair is that to the people?” she says.
The main thrust of the claims brought by the plaintiffs is that Westport citizens such as themselves were never given an opportunity to raise their very valid concerns about the contamination of the soil; concerns that could very well play out to be disastrous for the environment and the residents of Westport. According to the Maryland Department of Environment, a study was done on the site and a response action plan concerning the contamination was put into place, but it doesn’t sound like much more has been done since.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs say that none of the citizens were given an opportunity to talk about the plan or see that it was followed through with. Also there has been no indication of how construction could affect the soil, or the contaminants with it. “The environment is being ignored, the middle river is being ignored so the hope is that those comments would be paid attention to and that a more comprehensive remedy would be put in place before the buildings go up and eliminate the possibility to remove the hotspots of contaminated soil.” Says Environmental law Attorney Timothy Henderson.
Not surprisingly, Caesar’s entertainment has declined to comment on the matter or the pending litigation.
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