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Federal agency joins drywall investigation

MANATEE — A federal agency is investigating concerns about drywall manufactured in China that has been blamed for a foul odor and corrosion of metal components in some Florida homes.

For about a month, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has been looking into whether the sulfur compounds emitted from the drywall are corroding household components and causing a possible safety risk, said Joe Martyak, spokesman for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The agency is also on the ground working with the Florida Department of Health and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on the issue, he said.

In mid-February, U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, D-Fla., sent letters to both agencies requesting action.

“The commission needs to work with the EPA and other agencies to quickly determine the extent of problems with this drywall, order necessary remediation and create new safety standards to keep this from happening again,” Nelson said.

In the letter to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, Nelson addressed concern about drywall manufactured by Knauf Tianjin and whether the product should be recalled or removed from the market.

Knauf Tianjin said Monday it has not been contacted by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

“We intend to cooperate with that agency and all state and federal authorities that undertake any investigation of the Chinese drywall issues,” the company said in a statement.

Manatee County homeowner Grant Reid said he is pleased to see that federal agencies are working with the state on the issue.

“Every group that looks into this, it’s going to be better,” he said.

Reid, who lives in Crystal Lakes, north of Palmetto, has pictures of his home while it was under construction, which show tainted drywall. He has been in discussion with builder Taylor Morrison about what steps will be taken to rectify the situation, but nothing has been finalized.

Reid is waiting to hear the state’s results of the investigation regarding the potential health hazard of the drywall.

“This is going to be a much bigger deal than what a lot of people think,” he said. “It’s only going to help the homeowners in the long run.”

To date, more than 90 complaints about tainted drywall in homes have been lodged by Floridians with state health officials.

Among neighborhoods in Manatee County where tainted drywall has become an issue are Heritage Harbour, GreyHawk Landing, Lakewood Ranch, Crystal Lakes, and Fairways Imperial Lakewoods, north of Palmetto.

The builders in Manatee County who have been mentioned in complaints include Lennar, WCI and Taylor Morrison.

Lennar has moved a number of Heritage Harbour residents out of their homes to remove tainted drywall and make repairs to corroded materials, including air conditioning.

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

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