Friday, July 25, 2003

Lead found in more soil

Yard outside of Butler Co. subdivision

By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer

LIBERTY TWP. - Hazardous levels of lead have been found in at least one yard just outside a lead- and arsenic-contaminated Butler County subdivision, a federal official said Thursday.

High lead levels recently were detected after soil samples were taken from a yard on the east side of Lexington Manor, said Steven Renninger, the on-scene coordinator in the Superfund division of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Cincinnati office. It's the first time that a yard outside Lexington Manor has been confirmed to have high lead levels since the new Liberty Township subdivision's contamination problem became known.

Lead at Lexington Manor became an issue late last year. Residents learned that the 26-acre parcel off Millikin Road, where their subdivision was built in 2001, used to be a skeet shooting range, which closed in 1969. Hazardous levels of lead and arsenic have been found; the subdivision is now a U.S. EPA Superfund site.

"There is some contamination," Renninger said of the neighboring yard. "We believe that contamination is due to the shotgun pellets landing over there.... The pellets did not stop at the property line."

The highest lead level found in the yard was close to 70,000 parts per million, he said. The standard for bare soil areas is 400 parts per million.

Renninger is overseeing a cleanup of Lexington Manor that is expected to begin in mid-August with 8,000 to 10,000 soil samples to be taken in the entire 46-lot neighborhood (about 280 samples in each yard) to determine the extent of the contamination.

Excavation of the lead- and arsenic-tainted soil should begin in late September or October.

And now, more samples will be taken from the neighboring yard - and will be tested for arsenic, Renninger said. He said who would pay for cleanup in that yard is yet to determined.The residents of the home outside the subdivision couldn't be reached for comment Thursday and have declined to comment in the past.

The federal EPA also recently tested a yard just outside Lexington Manor, to the west, but it was found to be clean, he said. It could not, however, test a third yard to the west because the owners would not give consent, he added.

Renninger also confirmed Thursday that he has asked a U.S. EPA civil investigator to look into recent allegations from some Lexington Manor residents, their attorney and others that the subdivision's builder, Ryland Homes, may have moved contaminated dirt into other Ryland neighborhoods.

No evidence, however, has been found, Renninger stressed. Ryland spokeswoman Anne Madison, who did not return a call Thursday, has denied the allegations, saying earlier this year thatno dirt "ever" was removed from Lexington Manor.

And according to a sworn statement from John Adams, Ryland's Ohio Valley president, dirt hasn't been moved out of Lexington Manor since April 17, when the EPA became involved with the site.

Meanwhile, Renninger said Thursday he expects a federal consent decree outlining the cleanup to be completed in early August. Ryland Homes and the subdivision's developer, Lexington Manor, Inc., are signing the document and have been determined by the EPA to be the parties responsible for the contamination, he said.

The amount of contamination will determine the length and cost of the cleanup, which will be paid for by Ryland Homes and Lexington Manor Inc., he said. The EPA suspects there are five "bury pits" where lead-tainted soil was buried and that 13 yards are contaminated. More contaminated yards may be found.

Later this summer, the EPA plans to hold the third public meeting since last winter to update Lexington Manor residents on the situation.

Most Lexington Manor families have sued Ryland, the developer, and others over the contamination. Two families recently settled their lawsuits (the terms are confidential). A lawsuit involving 18 families is pending.


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