Sunday, June 22, 2003

Inspections don't alert buyers to environmental hazards

[IMAGE] Ed and Robin Lumbert of the Lexington Manor subdivision in Liberty Township look over a lead sample testing report they received from Ryland Homes in January.
(Enquirer file photo)
LIBERTY TWP. - Certificates of occupancy can't guarantee that homeowners will avoid every new-home problem.

The certificates do nothing to address potential environmental defects, the kind that plague the Lexington Manor subdivision in southeastern Butler County.

Nearly 30 families learned late last year that their new homes were built on a former skeet-shooting range that today produces hazardous levels of lead and arsenic.

Some had lived there as long as a year; others had been in their new homes just a few weeks.

Homeowners, particularly 20 families who have sued builder Ryland Homes and others over the lead, are scared for their kids' safety and don't let them play in their yards anymore.

Ryland has pledged to pay the families the purchase price for their homes, ranging from $190,000 to $330,000. The company also has offered $15,000 in additional expenses and $10,000 off another Ryland home.

The subdivision recently was declared a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Superfund site.

Some homeowners lived in their houses for nearly a year before obtaining a certificate of occupancy.

One house received a certificate of occupancy only after the zoning board allowed it to stay where it was built - 16 feet too close to the road.

That house now has another distinction: It's been turned into a command station for a massive EPA cleanup, expected to begin later this summer.

Jennifer Edwards

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