Evacuated families await tests on air in homes

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

After several weeks of trying to determine the source of methane gas that forced three Elkridge families from their homes last month, the builder said yesterday testing is not complete.

"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.

Once the testing is finished, Ryan Homes will share the results with John Liparini, president of the Brantley Group and 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 and when results would be available.

"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.

TTC 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 present in the air of the house. It is 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 last week showed the percentage of gas inside his home was well above 10 percent.

Pub Date: 10/01/98

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