Lawsuit halts Baltimore casino construction

BALTIMORE - Seventy year old Merab Rice has lived in Westport for a little more than ten years.

And this diminutive grandmother of three, along with four other people in the neighborhood are playing David to the Goliath of a new casino that's backed by the state, the city and developers.

 "I'm Delilah; you know how she cut his hair off to take his strength. "

Rice says the casino site on Russell street was a heavy industrial area and pollutants found in the soil seven years ago.

She says nothing changed but developers and the state don't seem to be paying much attention to what could happen to the river, a park and her neighborhood once the casino and massive parking garage are built.

 "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?" Rice says. 

The basis of the suit brought by Rice and four others in Westport says that they never had a chance to raise concerns about contamination in the soil.

The Maryland Department of Environment did a study on the site and a response action plan concerning contamination.

Attorneys say no one got a chance to talk about the plan; that if it was followed and what the impact of construction could have on the area.

 "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."  Environmental Attorney Timothy Henderson says.

There is also a sixth plaintiff in this case.

A group calling itself the Inner Harbor Stewardship Foundation is funding the suit.

The group has a website but there are no contact numbers, no listing of officers except one the executive director Chris Lapetina who appears in one photo.

And the only way to contact them is through the website.

Caesar's entertainment which owns the Harrah's brand declined comment because of the lawsuit.

 A hearing on the injunction is set for Friday.

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