By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer
LIBERTY TWP. - A Butler County judge on Wednesday ordered Ryland Homes to cease construction and to halt movement of dirt in the lead-contaminated Lexington Manor subdivision.
An exception will be made for construction that is wrapping up on one lot, but federal officials must approve what kind of work is done and residents must be notified 48 hours in advance, Common Pleas Judge Matthew J. Crehan ruled.
Lexington Manor, off Millikin Road in Liberty Township, is contaminated with hazardous levels of lead and arsenic and has been declared a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Superfund site.
Cleanup is expected to begin this summer.
Wednesday's ruling came after Chris Finney, a Hyde Park attorney representing 18 subdivision families that have sued Ryland Homes and others over the lead, filed motions earlier in the day requesting construction and dirt movement stop.
"We see it as a big win," Finney said. "We have had repeated promises from Ryland that they would stop all exterior construction. Yet even as of last week, they were doing grading on the property. Now for the first time, we have a court order preventing them from doing that."
Ryland officials recently had said they planned to halt construction at the 46-lot subdivision, where homes range in value from $190,000 to $330,000.
Though Ryland officials and their attorneys deny it, Finney said he and the residents suspect some dirt has been taken into other Ryland developments under construction near Lexington Manor.
Anne Madison, a Ryland spokeswoman, recently denied the allegation, telling the Enquirer the company hasn't "ever" taken dirt out.
"We have not done anything at Lexington Manor without the permission or the direction of the EPA," Madison said Tuesday.
Attorneys for Ryland reiterated that in court Wednesday and produced a sworn statement from John Adams, Ryland's Ohio Valley president, stating that dirt hasn't been moved out of the subdivision since April 17, when the U.S. EPA became involved with the site.
In an interview this week, Todd Schunk, owner of Schunk Trucking, Inc., of Cleves, said his company was hired by a Ryland contractor earlier this year to move dirt around the subdivision during construction. He, too, insisted no dirt left Lexington Manor, at least in his trucks.
Steven Renninger, an on-scene coordinator in the Superfund division of the U.S. EPA's Cincinnati office, said Tuesday he is not investigating the allegation at this point, calling it "speculation." For now, he said he is focused on a cleanup of the subdivision.
Hazardous lead levels at the Lexington Manor subdivision in Liberty Township have been found in 13 yards. Arsenic also has been detected.
The subdivision was built in 2000 on 26 acres that used to hold a skeet shooting range.
A cleanup of the lead was attempted before homes were built, through rototilling, lime treatment, then burial.
The builder, Ryland Homes, said it was assured the property was safe for homes. Ryland now has offered all families at Lexington Manor buy-back deals on their homes.
A federal consent decree outlining the cleanup work plan and schedule is expected to be signed soon by Ryland Homes and Lexington Manor Inc., the subdivision's developer.
Taft moves to help Butler
Soaked farmers hope for dry-out, and soon
Flynts may face old charges
City cuts Kroger deal on parking
Patton issues pardons for four
Lights flashed as car stalled
Site of fatal crash had lights, no gates
IN THE TRISTATE
Senate OKs concealed-carry bill
Ohio River cleanup day moved to July
Kings Island sued by family
Top police watchdog steps down
Boy, 14, gets 6 years for fatal shooting
Judge rescinds his child support order
Obituary: Dave Ashley was boxer, publisher
Photo of the Day: "I want him dead"
PULFER: Collector's items
HOWARD: Some good news
BUTLER, WARREN, CLERMONT
Man dies days after treatment
Wedding will look like 1803
Boy enters plea denying murder of his brother, 1
Ryland ordered to stop moving dirt in lead area
Schools OK $44.4M building plan
Mason rejects former Miami coach in light of pending charge
Center augurs well for Monroe's future
Meal program switches service
Voinovich to have heart pacemaker installed Friday
Ohioan makes mark behind scenes
High water starts retreat in sodden northwest Ohio
Ohio lawmakers closer to budget deal
3 more inmates in Ohio set to die
Witness testifies to Traficant 'bribe'
Voinovich pushes regulations to guard against invasive species
Bill targets violence, vandalism on the farm
Ohioan killed in Iraq laid to rest
Italian restaurant coming to Crestview
Politicos shown a good time in N.Ky.
Plane missing since weekend eludes searchers
Airport still alert to SARS danger
Patton pities rapist killer