Wednesday, February 12, 2003

More lead tests above standard

By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer

LIBERTY TWP. - More concentrations of lead higher than the most stringent levels for bare soil areas have been found in yards at a new subdivision in a second round of testing, results released Tuesday show.

But officials with the builder of Lexington Manor, Ryland Homes, note the latest results are not hazardous levels, as at least one previous sample has shown.

Half of the subdivision still must undergo the second phase of soil tests. Those samples will be taken next week. A third testing phase then will be done to see how deep the lead is in the soil and to identify cleanup boundaries.

"These results are not at an alarming level and are very encouraging," said Anne Madison, a Ryland spokeswoman.

In the second testing phase, nine samples from four yards out of 399 samples taken on 21 lots had levels higher than the state and federal standard for bare-soil play areas of 400 parts per million (ppm), the results show.

Those lead levels ranged from 460 to 2,170 ppm.

Ryland owns two of those lots, so they are not occupied.

In the first phase of testing last month, four samples out of 37 were above the standard.

Overall now, 25 total samples in five lots out of 416 samples taken from these same 21 lots have detected higher levels of lead than the standard. Those results have ranged from 460 to 10,000 ppm.

But because most of the high results are relatively low, areas covered with sod can have lead levels as high as 1,200 ppm and be safe, according to federal standards.

"To put the results in perspective, if a sample is above 400 parts per million but below 1,200 parts per million, placing sod over that area would bring it within Environmental Protection Agency guidelines," Madison said.

But some residents who live on lots with higher lead concentrations than the standard were not appeased Tuesday.

Robin and Ed Lumbert have had high levels detected in four samples taken from their lot. The latest results from their yard were 500 and 490 ppm.

The couple has sued Ryland, asking the courts to make the builder buy back their home and pay damages.

"We want out of here," Robin Lumbert, 35, said. "We would like to have a yard where we feel it is safe to have a garden. How can they assure us it's safe until every bit of the lead out here is removed?"

"Our focus remains on resolving this situation and we are coming closer to a resolution," Madison said.

Meanwhile, OEPA is investigating whether lead in the soil at Lexington Manor poses a public health hazard after previous tests detected high levels and neighbors complained.

Some residents are upset at the publicity about the lead in their subdivision, which was built on 25 acres that used to hold a clay pigeon skeet shooting range.


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