CPSC Head Goes on Virginia Chinese Drywall Tour

Millions of dollars will be needed to fix the Chinese drywall problem, a Virginia builder told the head of the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) during her visit to the state yesterday. According to The Virginian-Pilot, CPSC Commissioner Inez Tenenbaum heard from the builder as she joined Sen. Mark Warner, R-Virginia and other lawmakers from the state on a tour of affected homes.

According to the CPSC, it has received about 1,501 reports from residents in 27 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico who believe their health symptoms or the corrosion of metal components in their homes are related to the presence of Chinese drywall. Many homes with Chinese drywall are unlivable, and some homeowners have been driven to the point of bankruptcy. About 51 complaints have come from Virginia, making it the third hardest hit state behind Florida, which has over 1,100 complaints, and Louisiana, which has 249.

During yesterday’s tour, Tenenbaum visited three homes at The Hampshires at Greenbrier in Chesapeake constructed by The Dragas Cos. The owner of the firm told Tenenbaum that it is spending about $70,000 on each of its 73 condos in Chesapeake and Virginia Beach built with tainted drywall. The company expects to spend around $5 million on remediation, The Virginian-Pilot said.

Tenenbaum said that the CPSC is spending $3 million to study the drywall problem. When it is finally released, the commission’s report will include an analysis of the elements and compounds found in Chinese drywall, and results from air-quality tests. It will also advise Congress on ways to handle the crisis, The Virginian-Pilot said. Because no federal agency has resources to remediate the Chinese drywall problem on its own, Tenenbaum said Congress will have to authorize funds and work with federal agencies to devise a national plan to help restore homes built with the drywall.

The Virginian-Pilot also noted that while Tenenbaum applauded Dragas for attempting to address the drywall problem, she did not endorse the firm’s remediation procedures. “I’m not going to make any presumptions just on a tour,” she said. “We’re waiting for the science to inform us of what the issues are.”

Tenenbaum’s words echo what many legal experts have said about remediation efforts currently underway. Most have cautioned homeowners not to rush into remediation because remediation protocols have not been established, and cross-contamination could occur. Even after Chinese drywall has been torn out and replaced, out-gassing of sulfur compounds and other elements continues to occur. Remediation will only further jeopardize public health when it is done without adequate safeguards or by unqualified individuals. Most legal experts have said that it is in the best interests of homeowners to delay any Chinese drywall repairs until a remediation protocol has been formulated.

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