Saturday, January 18, 2003

More lots show high lead levels

Liberty Twp. residents get test results

By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer

LIBERTY TWP. - High levels of lead have now been detected in five lots at an upscale subdivision, turning neat, spacious yards into potential hazards.

[photo] Lexington Manor homeowners Ed and Robin Lumbert look over a lead testing report Friday.
(Michael Snyder photo)
| ZOOM |
Tests on four samples taken from 27 lots in Lexington Manor off Millikin Road detected higher lead levels than the most stringent state and federal levels for bare-soil play areas, results released Friday to The Cincinnati Enquirer by Ryland Homes show. Earlier samples tested independently by homeowners also came back at high levels.

A courier delivered the test results late Friday afternoon to anxious residents, who were told in an attached letter that another round of testing will begin Jan. 27 and, if necessary, there will be a third testing phase and cleanup.

Ed and Robin Lumbert already had lead testing conducted on their yard late last year after the first high level of lead was detected in another yard on their street, Palomino Lane.

Earlier this week, the sample they took came back "significantly over" the mandated level. Friday, one of the three samples Ryland took from their yard last week also came back high.

"This is a crying shame. Our own back yard could be our own worst enemy right now," Mr. Lumbert, 34, said. "I am extremely disappointed and saddened to think what we are sitting on could really effect our children's health and our grandchildren's health."

The Lumberts have children ages 6, 3 and 22 months and no longer use the back yard of their $275,500 home.

"If we had known, we would have never built here," Mr. Lumbert said. "We were going to grow old together in this house and now we have to start looking for a home. We have to start all over again. We are not going to stay here."

Lead exposure can damage the brain, nervous system, kidneys and other tissues. At high levels, it can be deadly. At chronic lower levels, lead can hurt learning ability, damage short-term memory and increase the likelihood of criminal behavior.

Friday's test results bring to six the total of soil samples from Lexington Manor yards that have detected a higher lead concentration than the most stringent state and federal levels of 400 parts per million in bare-soil play areas.

Effects on the body:
If not detected early, young children with relatively low levels of lead can suffer from:
• Damage to the brain and nervous system.
• Behavior and learning problems.
• Slowed growth.
• Hearing problems.
• Headaches.
• Impaired vision and motor skills.
Adults can suffer from:
• Difficulties during pregnancy.
• Reproductive problems (such as birth defects).
• High blood pressure.
• Digestive problems.
• Neurological disorders.
• Memory and concentration problems.
• Muscle and joint pain.
• Kidney dysfunction.
Simple steps to protect your family from lead hazards if you think your home has high levels of lead:
• Get your young children tested, even if they seem healthy.
• Wash children's hands, bottles, pacifiers and toys often.
• Make sure children eat healthy, low-fat foods.
• Get your home checked for lead hazards.
• Wipe soil off shoes before entering house.
• Talk to your landlord about fixing surfaces with peeling or chipping paint.
• Take precautions to avoid exposure to lead dust when remodeling or renovating; call (800) 424-LEAD for guidelines.
• Don't use a belt-sander, propane torch, heat gun, dry scraper or dry sandpaper on painted surfaces that may contain lead.
• Don't try to remove lead-based paint yourself.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
The four high samples were: 830, 790, 580 and 410 ppm. The lots that scored 830 and 410 hold homes under construction; the other two lots have houses that are occupied.

Twelve samples detected no lead.

So far, 27 of the 46 lots have been sampled, but Ryland wants to test them all, including about 12 lots whose residents have refused. Nineteen lots are unsold or under construction.

At least 11 of 30 soil samples taken from the first yard found lead at concentrations above 400 ppm.

Lexington Manor was built on 25 acres that used to hold a recreational skeet shooting range.

Ohio Environmental Protection Agency officials who are investigating the lead concentrations in the subdivision have said lead shot that fell into the ground is the cause of the problem.

About 12 families who live in the area feared to be the most contaminated (the lead shot drop zone over Palomino Lane and Backtrail Court) have not given Ryland permission to sample their soil.

This week, Ryland sent letters to those residents, asking them to reconsider, and three homeowners have.

"It is important that we be able to do that initial testing on every lot in the community," said Anne Madison, a Ryland vice president and spokeswoman. "We want to do what's right and want to follow the process properly."

The company announced Friday in the letter to residents that the testing under way is "simply the first phase in our plan to investigate and then resolve the lead issues present in the Lexington Manor community."

Ryland told residents that, based on recommendations from the Sharonville-based environmental firm hired to conduct the tests, it will now begin "a second investigative phase" and will take additional samples from each yard that has been tested, for a total of 19 samples from each yard.

More high levels would result in further testing to enable Ryland to identify the boundaries of a potential cleanup.

Several residents question why Ryland did not tell them their homes were built on land that used to hold a shooting range and contained lead. Some, including the Lumberts, want Ryland to buy back their homes.

Ryland officials said it wasn't necessary to inform residents about the range because Ryland had been assured the property was safe.

"In retrospect, Ryland should have told us," said Robin McGinnis, 38, whose yard of their $228,100 Backtrail Court home had the high lead level of 790. "But Ryland is saying they will take care of it, so I am putting my faith in the fact that they say they are going to live up to their word."

Other Lexington Manor homeowners say they feel confident the lead problem is being handled properly and look forward to living there a long time.

"The whole taboo thing that is being said on this community is awful," Kevin Engel, 35, of Springdale, said Friday.

He put money down on a five-bedroom home in Lexington Manor a week ago - and said that Ryland officials told him at the time about the lead situation.

"I'll be perfectly honest with you, it hasn't been the greatest week," Mr. Engel said Friday.

"But I have done a lot of research and talked to a lot of people, including three chemists and John Adams (Ryland's Ohio Valley Division president), and all of them have led me to believe - no pun intended - that this is fine as long as they are going to get rid of it."


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