Builder agrees to dig out source of methane gas Problem forced 4 families from homes in Elkridge

November 14, 1998|By Jamal E. Watson | Jamal E. Watson,SUN STAFF

In an effort to eliminate the methane gas that forced three families to evacuate their homes in the Calvert Ridge subdivision in Elkridge in September, Ryan Homes has agreed to dig out the organic material that is the source of the gas.

The company announced the decision yesterday at a meeting with county officials and Calvert Ridge homeowners, saying it was based on the recommendation of three engineering firms hired by Ryan to do soil tests.

Ryan officials also said they plan to monitor the gas concentration in the area and will continue to install ventilation systems in homes in Calvert Ridge and neighboring Marshalee Estates, where a fourth family was forced to evacuate its home briefly on Sept. 30 after gas was detected near basement sump pumps.

Ventilation systems have been installed in 10 homes.

After months of testing, Ryan Homes officials said, their consultants advised them that this would be the best way to remedy the problem.

"We feel confident in the information that our consultants provided," said Kevin Kerwin, a Ryan Homes vice president.

Debbie Batzer, a Calvert Ridge homeowner who attended the meeting with her husband, John, said she was disappointed with the report.

She said it did not provide detailed information about the levels of gas still in the area. She also said she believes Ryan Homes took too long to release the report to county officials and homeowners.

"I still have questions that need to be answered. We need to know that we're safe," she said. "I still have no comfort in the safety of my house."

Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker said he has confidence that Ryan Homes is doing its best.

"It appears that Ryan Homes is doing a good job trying to get rid of the methane gas," said Ecker, who attended the meeting. "Methane gas is not particular to Ryan Homes. It can be found anywhere in the county."

Ecker said he plans to review the report with other county officials.

"I understand that homeowners are still concerned, but this is a solvable problem," he said.

Robert Brager, an attorney who represents many of the Calvert Ridge homeowners, said the report Ryan Homes presented is too general and does not provide specific data from the tests conducted.

Brager said homeowners were not told their homes were built on what was once a refilled sand and gravel quarry, where dumping occurred without county approval.

The developer of the subdivision, the Brantley Group, which is not part of Ryan Homes, acknowledged last month that materials such as tree stumps had been buried at Calvert Ridge years ago. The president of Brantley Group said most of the decomposing organic material was removed two years ago, before houses were built but that workers stopped digging at a depth of 14 feet and more debris might still be buried at the site.

Ryan Homes officials say they have reached out to all of the homeowners in the subdivision and that they are close to reaching an agreement with four Calvert Ridge homeowners who have said they have no interest in moving back.

"We have been very proactive," said Tom Buescher, an area president of Ryan Homes. "We have dealt with this situation."

Pub Date: 11/14/98

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