Chinese Drywall Pilot Remediation Program Means Relief for Some Homeowners

Some Chinese drywall homeowners are finally going to get the fix they have been waiting years for. In a settlement negotiated by the federal court overseeing thousands of Chinese drywall lawsuits, Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin Co. and a group of other defendants has agreed to repair 300 homes in four states as part of a Chinese drywall pilot remediation program. The hope is that the pilot program will lead to a larger settlement of Chinese drywall claims.

Chinese drywall has been wreaking havoc on homes since the early part of the decade. During the housing boom, a shortage of domestic drywall caused US builders to purchase Chinese wallboard in unprecedented amounts. It wasn’t long before homeowners began complaining of noxious smells in their homes, as well as frequent problems with air conditioning systems, corroded and blackening copper air conditioning coils, corroded copper wiring, plumbing and other metals, and unexplained appliance breakdowns. Some also complained that noxious fumes were causing headaches, respiratory problems and sinus issues, among other problems.

It was eventually determined that sulfurous compounds in Chinese drywall were causing the problems. Since late 2008, the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) has received more than 3,600 reports from residents in 39 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, and Puerto Rico regarding defective Chinese drywall.

Thousands of homeowners have since filed lawsuits over toxic Chinese drywall, the majority of which have been consolidated in federal court in New Orleans. According to a ProPublica report, the pilot remediation program negotiated by that court will commence with repairs to 40 homes that have been determined to contain at least 95 percent Knauf drywall. The repairs will include replacement of all drywall, wiring, copper pipes, the air conditioning systems, fire safety equipment and all damaged fixtures. Knauf will hire contractors to do the work, while repairs will be inspected by an independent environmental engineer.

Selection of the other homes that will participate in the program is now underway. To be eligible, homes must contain at least 95 percent Chinese-made drywall.

The remediation protocol established for the pilot program is expected to cost around $100,000 per home. Homeowners will also be paid $8.50 per square foot to cover costs like moving expenses and alternative housing.

If all goes well, the settlement could be expanded to other homes. According to a report in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, a Knauf attorney said that the company “is prepared to expand the remediation” to other affected homes, which could number in the thousands.

It’s not clear yet how any settlement will impact homes built with Chinese drywall made by other manufacturers, though it is hoped that such a deal will encourage them to come to the negotiating table. Unfortunately, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, it’s unclear if that will happen. The second largest maker of Chinese drywall – Taishan Gypsum Co. – has not shown a willingness to join any settlement, and in fact, has yet to acknowledge any problems with its drywall.

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