Methane forces out another Elkridge family Second subdivision affected by the vapors

October 01, 1998|By Jamal E. Watson | Jamal E. Watson,SUN STAFF

Methane gas drove another Elkridge family from its home yesterday in a neighborhood next door to the Calvert Ridge community, where three homes had been evacuated because of methane gas vapors a month ago.

A home in the 5800 block of Deborah Jean Way, in the Marshall Lee Estates subdivision, was evacuated by the homeowners after tests conducted by firefighters found methane gas.

Firefighters were called after a gas detector went off in the home about 1 p.m. yesterday.

"There was enough methane located inside the house to declare it unsafe," said Sean Kelly, a spokesman for Howard County Fire and Rescue Services.

The house was posted with a red sign reading, "Do Not Enter." Identical signs had been posted on three homes in Calvert Ridge on Sept. 2.

Neighbors said the family living in the house had moved there in June or July. Officials did not provide the name of the family.

The house is a new dwelling similar to those in Calvert Ridge, and was built by Ryan Homes, the builder of the Calvert Ridge community.

Ryan officials could not be reached last night to discuss the latest evacuation, but company officials said earlier yesterday that tests were still being conducted to determine the source of methane gas that had forced three Elkridge families from their homes last month.

"Last week, I was confident that we would have something to share with the homeowners by today [Wednesday]," said Bob Coursey, a spokesman for Ryan Homes, "but we don't have anything new."

He said Ryan Homes hired Hillis-Carnes Engineering Associates Inc. and Brook Environmental and Engineering Corp. to test soil samples and that the scope of testing has been narrowed to pinpoint the methane gas source.

Coursey said he does not know when testing in the Calvert Ridge subdivision would be completed. Last week, Kevin Kerwin, a Ryan Homes vice president, sent a letter to Calvert Ridge residents promising to keep them informed about the testing.

tTC Once the testing is finished, Ryan Homes will share the results with John Liparini, president of the Brantley Group and the developer of the subdivision. Liparini said he will review the results and work with Ryan Homes.

"I am actually surprised that the testing is taking this long," Liparini said. "We haven't heard anything yet from Ryan Homes, but we're basically standing by ready to assist."

The three families displaced from their homes say they were never given a time line for when testing would be finished.

"We've been in the dark about everything," said homeowner Matt Fox, 32. "Ryan Homes has not told us anything."

Fox, his wife, their three children and the family's dog are temporarily living in a three-bedroom apartment in Ellicott City.

The families, like many of the neighbors in the community, suspect their homes were built on a landfill. But county officials, as well as the builder and developer, say a gravel pit, not a landfill, was on the property.

Two weeks ago, Howard County Fire and Rescue Services offered to test methane gas levels in the homes of the displaced families for three consecutive days. If the readings are 10 percent or less, the families would have the option of moving back in, said Capt. Sean Kelly, a Fire and Rescue spokesman. (The percentage is not the total amount of gas in the house. It's a figure based on the amount of methane detected in the area near the point of entry.)

"So far, we have not heard from any of the three families indicating that they would like for us to test," Kelly said.

Fox said he has not asked firefighters for further testing because readings performed last week showed the percentage of gas inside his home was still well above 10 percent.

"Last week, it was at 50 percent," Fox said. "There are still excessive levels of methane inside of the house. It wouldn't make sense to ask the fire department to test when we know the gas is there."

Pub Date: 10/01/98

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