Thursday, June 24, 2010

More Companies Knew About Tainted Drywall but Stayed Quiet—and Kept Selling It

Foster's Run, a WCI Communities Inc. development in McLean, Va.  The homebuilder filed for bankruptcy protection. (Jay Premack/Bloomberg News)
Foster's Run, a WCI Communities Inc. development in McLean, Va. The homebuilder filed for bankruptcy protection. (Jay Premack/Bloomberg News)

At least a half-dozen homebuilders, installers and environmental consultants knew as early as 2006 that foul smells were coming from drywall imported from China – but they didn't share their early concerns with the public, even when homeowners began complaining about the drywall in 2008.

ProPublica and the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported last month that two U.S. companies – WCI Communities, a major Florida homebuilder, and Banner Supply, a Miami-based distributor – knew about the problem in 2006. But according to recently released sworn depositions by current and former executives at Banner, other companies also were aware of the problem.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has since linked the foul odor to sulfur gases that can corrode electrical wiring and household appliances, including air conditioners and refrigerators. The long-term health effects of the air are still being studied, although homeowners have complained of respiratory problems, bloody noses and severe headaches.

As WCI was ripping the smelly drywall out of homes on Florida's east coast, the company was selling houses built with the same material on the west coast. Several homeowners in the Sun City Center and the Venetian Golf and River Club in North Venice told ProPublica and the Herald-Tribune that they bought homes from WCI as late as March 2007 — eight months after the builder had found problems with Chinese drywall — but received no warning.

When WCI filed for bankruptcy protection [2] in 2008, it promised many homeowners it would fix the contaminated homes once it emerged from bankruptcy. The company exited [3] Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last September as a privately held company and recently announced plans to build new homes throughout Florida. Meanwhile, scores of its former customers are still living in WCI homes built with Chinese drywall.

http://www.propublica.org/feature/chinese-drywall-stinks-mums-the-word

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