Thursday, January 23, 2003

What about us? ask neighbors in lead discovery


Subdivision drains onto their property

By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[photo] Jeff Lewis, whose home is behind the Lexington Manor subdivision, shows the path of water from a natural spring.
(Michael Snyder photo)
| ZOOM |
LIBERTY TWP. - Jeff Lewis and his neighbors along Carthel Drive have struggled with runoff splashing into their yards from a subdivision that was built behind their homes about two years ago.

Now, they have safety concerns.

That's because their new neighbor is Lexington Manor, now under an Ohio Environmental Protection Agency investigation for potential lead contamination.

High levels of lead have been detected in five lots at the subdivision still under development off Millikin Road, and more testing is to start Monday.

Carvel Road is just off Liberty-Fairfield Road, behind Lexington Manor.

Mr. Lewis wants his yard tested for potential lead concentration, but doesn't think he should have to pay for it.

"I wasn't aware of the lead problem and my concern is with the amount of runoff we get, could any of it contain lead?" Mr. Lewis, 44, said. "Then, in doing testing, what kind of effect is that going to have on the values of these properties? This whole thing is a mess."

When the Enquirer informed OEPA's Dayton office Wednesday of the runoff concerns behind Lexington Manor, officials said they would look into it.

OEPA officials said they are concerned that runoff from the subdivision, built on a former skeet shooting range, could carry lead onto other yards.

The lead can dissolve, "and the water that can run off could move the dissolved lead to some other property," said Randy Watterworth, senior site coordinator for the OEPA's division of emergency and remedial response.

"So what might have been a problem at the former skeet range just from the actual drop-out of the solid lead could become a larger problem via transport via surface runoff," he said.

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.

Officials with the company that built Lexington Manor, Ryland Homes, said Wednesday they are conducting testing only for Lexington Manor homeowners.

Runoff issues from the subdivision are the responsibility of Lexington Manor's developer, Lexington Manor Inc., they said.

"Anything outside the site really needs to be looked at from a development standpoint," said Anne Madison, a Ryland vice president and spokesman.

"We are not involved in anything that is related to storm-water runoff. I want to keep our focus on our homeowners and doing what's right for them."

Mr. Lewis says he and at least two other neighbors who have experienced flooding problems on their properties from runoff at Lexington Manor have contacted Butler County and Liberty Township officials for the past two years.

The flooding was especially bad during the summer of 2001, when heavy rains hit much of the Tristate, he recalled. High water flooded his basement, a neighbor's garage and another neighbor's home, and saturated a yard so much that high winds knocked over two large old trees.

He says Harry Thomas, the agent of Lexington Manor Inc., according to state records, has come to their properties "several times." Mr. Thomas even had a drainage pipe installed to help curtail the runoff, he said.

But that hasn't helped much; neither has a drainage ditch that regularly fills up and spills over, Mr. Lewis contends.

"These past two years have been bad," said Mr. Lewis, who has lived on Carthel Drive eight years. "We get a constant flow of water and it's totally saturated my yard."

Mr. Thomas' attorney, Mike Fulton of Hamilton, recently told the Enquirer everyone involved with Lexington Manor did the right thing.

"It was the sincere effort of everyone who had knowledge of the contamination problem to do the right thing to address it and it was addressed," Mr. Fulton said. "That's all I can say."

Meanwhile, Liberty Township trustees have told township officials to look into whether runoff from Lexington Manor has possibly affected neighboring homes.

When the issue came up at Tuesday's township meeting, Trustee David Kern said he doubted there were problems, but thought the township should investigate anyway.

"The township certainly needs to know more about it," Mr. Kern said. "One place or avenue where it could affect us would be if by any chance any of this lead is leaving the property and going to the rest of the township. I doubt it. Lead is heavy. It doesn't (move) easy; but I still want to make sure that it hasn't."

The trustees also decided they all should attend a private meeting scheduled Friday night at a Lexington Manor residence among the neighbors, OEPA officials and representatives from the Ohio and Butler County departments of health.

E-mail jedwards@enquirer.com




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