Friday, August 15, 2003

EPA, Ryland sign decree

Lead cleanup plan completed

By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer

LIBERTY TWP. - U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials signed a federal consent decree Thursday with Ryland Homes for cleanup of a lead- and arsenic-contaminated subdivision built on an old skeet-shooting range.

Ryland Homes signed the federal agreement - officially called an administrative order on consent - last week and turned in a cleanup plan earlier this summer, well ahead of schedule, said Steven Renninger, the on-scene coordinator in the Superfund division of the U.S. EPA's Cincinnati office.

An administrative order on consent works just like a federal consent decree, he said, except it won't be filed with a court unless that becomes necessary. And federal officials say that isn't likely.

"We have had excellent cooperation to this point with Ryland getting us ahead of schedule," Renninger said.

Lexington Manor qualifies as a U.S. EPA Superfund site because people, animals and the environment are being exposed to contaminants, creating an urgent need to quickly clean the subdivision.

Ryland officials say they feel they did not create the problem. The homebuilder purchased the Lexington Manor lots from developer Lexington Manor Inc. only after Ryland received written assurance the land was safe for homes by The Payne Firm of Blue Ash, an environmental consulting firm the developer hired.

While Ryland has taken responsibility for the cleanup, the other party the U.S. EPA is holding responsible, Lexington Manor Inc., won't sign the agreement, leaving Ryland shouldering the project's work and expected hefty cost.

Butler County developer Harry Thomas. Jr. of HT Investments Inc. of Fairfield is listed as Lexington Manor Inc.'s agent, according to state records.

"We are pleased and very happy things are moving forward toward getting these sites cleaned up for our residents and Liberty Township as a whole," said Melissa Bailey, a Ryland spokeswoman.

"We are stepping up to take care of a problem we didn't create. We had been told these lots were suitable for residential development. If we had any inkling they weren't, we never would have purchased these lots."

Ryland recently settled lawsuits with all 20 Lexington Manor families who sued over the lead. The terms are confidential. The company has purchased most of the homes in the neighborhood, 28 - and a third of those homeowners have purchased new homes in another Ryland subdivision.

U.S. and Ohio EPA officials and a Ryland contractor are holding a public meeting Tuesday about Lexington Manor at the township hall off Princeton Road to outline the cleanup.

The cleanup is expected to start Aug. 25

Excavation of the tainted soil is expected to begin in October.


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