Home builder says it’s looking into drywall use

WCI Communities, a home builder based in Bonita Springs, is investigating whether drywall manufactured in the China was installed its homes, according to a statement released Wednesday.

The company said it believes the homes in question were built and sold prior to a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filed in late 2008.

“We are aware of and have reviewed reports alleging that some of these drywall products may emit an odor and are associated with certain other issues,” the statement said.

WCI said in the statement the company is unsure of how many or where the homes that may have the drywall are located since the “source of the drywall varied and its use was intermittent.”

The company did not indicate if any communities in Manatee County were affected. WCI Communities is the developer of Tidewater Preserve in Bradenton and Waterlefe in East Manatee.

As of Monday, the Florida Health Department had received about 70 complaints from residents throughout the state.

Taylor Morrison and Miami-based Lennar Corp. are two other builders of homes in Manatee County with reported complaints about the tainted drywall, known to blacken copper wiring and corrode air conditioning components.

At least 80 homes built by Lennar Corp. in southwest Florida are believed to contain the imported drywall with about 23 in the East Manatee neighborhood of Heritage Harbour. Lennar Corp. has relocated some residents while work is being done on their homes. The company filed a lawsuit Friday in Miami-Dade County against manufacturers of Chinese drywall, eight drywall suppliers and a dozen installers.

A statement from the Florida Department of Health, released Monday, said that as many as seven developers and one homeowner contractor have homes that were visited by state health officials who were looking into the matter. State officials have visited 12 homes, built between 2004 and 2008, as part of the inquiry.

Tests on samples of drywall manufactured in China and in the United States will be conducted to determine possible health risks. The state expects preliminary results to be available in 45 days, the release stated.

An environmental firm hired by Lennar Corp., which has conducted air quality tests on about 100 homes, has concluded that the sulfur compounds emitted from the drywall do not pose a risk to residents.

On Wednesday, an employee of Environ International visited a Lennar home in Fairways at Imperial Lakewoods, north of Palmetto to conduct the testing.

Residents Richard and Nancy Nelson also contacted construction consultant Michael Foreman to be present during the testing. Foreman, who has been offering free preliminary testing to residents, said he has been looking into homes built from 2004 to 2007.

The Nelsons grew concerned about their home after learning that the drywall emitted gases that could corrode copper wiring and air conditioning components.

The couple has had to make repairs or replace their TVs, computers, microwave and refrigerator. Jewelry and art work have also showed signs of blackening.

“I’ve never had metal go like this and I’ve worked with metal for years,” Nancy Nelson said.

Jessica Klipa, Herald staff reporter, can be reached at 708-7906.