Thursday, March 6, 2003

Lead shows up in latest tests

OEPA monitoring Lexington Manor investigation

By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer

LIBERTY TWP. - More high concentrations of lead have been found in yards of a new subdivision that's being investigated for potential health hazards, results released Wednesday show.

The latest test results are the last half of a second round of testing at Lexington Manor in Liberty Township off Millikin Road, site of a former skeet shooting range.

The subdivision's builder, Ryland Homes, will turn over the latest test results and a summary of all of the samples taken since January to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency for guidance on how to proceed.

If OEPA concurs, Ryland Homes will pay for a third round of tests on lots that tested high for lead, conduct soil borings to determine how deep the lead is in the soil, and outline cleanup boundaries.

"Our focus remains on fully resolving this issue and ensuring the safety of our homeowners and families," said Anne Madison, a Ryland spokeswoman. "We want the Ohio EPA to concur that is the appropriate phase of action to be taken because we want to make sure it's right."

Also Wednesday, OEPA officials announced a public meeting at 7 p.m. March 25 at the Liberty Township Hall off Princeton Road to discuss the lead situation at Lexington Manor with residents.

In the second half of testing, 27 samples from nine yards out of 17 lots tested had results at or higher than the 400 parts per million standard for bare soil play areas. One sample came back at 8,000 ppm, results released Wednesday show.

Overall, 904 soil samples from 38 yards out of 46 total lots in the neighborhood have been analyzed. Fifty-three samples from 13 lots have one or more readings greater than 400 ppm, Madison said.

The high test results have ranged from 10,000 ppm to 430 ppm.

But Ryland officials say they are encouraged that, in the second batch of tests, 94 percent of the samples tested below the standard for bare soil play areas and nearly all - 99 percent - tested below the government standard for areas covered by mulch, grass or vegetation.

Covered areas can have lead levels as high as 1,200 ppm and be safe, according to federal standards.

Since the second phase of testing began last month, Ryland now has permission to test all but one home site. The seven additional lots available will be tested by the end of March, weather permitting, Madison said.

But some residents who live on lots with high lead concentrations blame Ryland for not telling them when they purchased their homes that the subdivision was built on a skeet shooting range.

Ryland officials have said notifying residents of the land's past use wasn't necessary because they had received assurance it was safe.

"There was no issue," Madison said. "We did everything right."

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.

One couple, Ed and Robin Lumbert, have had high levels of lead detected in four samples taken from their lot. The couple have sued Ryland, asking the courts to make the builder buy back their $275,500 home and pay damages.

According to documents Ryland Homes supplied the Lumberts' attorney, seven people who had contracts to purchase homes at Lexington Manor backed out after the lead discovery late last year. Most of those homes still have "sold" signs in the yards.

Meanwhile, OEPA officials said Wednesday that they have been waiting for Ryland to complete testing before deciding whether they will accept those results or conduct their own. They also are reviewing documents detailing the history of the property they requested from its developer.

Additional information is likely to be asked for soon, either in writing or through a meeting with the developers and/or their attorneys, said Harold O'Connell, a supervisor in the OEPA's Dayton division of hazardous waste management.

The subdivision developer, Lexington Manor Inc., had the soil treated with lime to render it nonhazardous, then buried 15 to 20 feet below the surface - beyond OEPA's requirement of 10 feet deep for residential land, records and attorneys for the developer have said.


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