Builder puts methane offer on the table Says sealed pumps, redirected drainage would deal with leaks; 'Still a lot of questions'; Some homeowners in 2 subdivisions talking with lawyers


The builder of luxury homes in two Elkridge subdivisions troubled by high levels of methane gas has offered to seal sump pumps and reroute drainage systems in an attempt to solve the problem.

But many residents in Calvert Ridge and Marshalee Estates say they're unhappy with the plan and are consulting with lawyers to determine whether they should agree to the Ryan Homes proposal.

All but three families in Marshalee Estates are being represented by the law firm of Baltimore Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos.

The offer came days after John Liparini, president of the Brantley Group and the developer of both subdivisions, said he was aware that organic materials were once buried in a quarry at the Calvert Ridge site.

In a letter Tuesday to 80 homeowners in the subdivisions, Kevin Kerwin, a Ryan Homes vice president, said the company would cover the costs of the proposal.

"This letter seeks your permission to install a sub-slab ventilation system in your home at the expense of Ryan Homes," Kerwin wrote. "As you are aware, the purpose of this system is to prevent the possible infiltration of subsurface natural gases (including methane) into your home."

The company's offer doesn't satisfy residents such as Nancy Jacobs.

"We're still waiting for the test results," said Jacobs, 32, who lives with her husband and two young children in the 5800 block of Deborah Jean Drive in Marshalee Estates. "This still does not answer the question for us of what's causing the methane gas.

"They want to come in and seal the sump pumps, and we're just supposed to be OK with that. But we're not."

Ryan Homes contractors plan to remove the sump pumps, seal the area with concrete and redirect the drainage system away from the homes.

Gary Rodriquez, who is coordinating the effort for Ryan Homes, said any additional work would depend on the makeup of the individual homes.

"We're working on an individual-by-individual basis," said Rodriquez. "Each house has its specific needs."

In the letter to the homeowners, Kerwin said that those who accept Ryan Homes' offer will be required to sign a form and return it to the company's office no later than Oct. 29.

After that date, Ryan Homes will withdraw its offer.

Two weeks ago, Chris and Danette Riviello and their daughter, Emily, 7, left their Marshalee Estates home after officials detected a 35 percent concentration of methane gas near their basement sump pump.

The family agreed to move back in three days later, after Ryan Homes sealed their sump pump. Some homeowners in Marshalee Estates said just because the Riviello family agreed to move back, the company should not assume that all residents are in favor of the proposal.

"There are still a whole lot of questions that we don't have answers to," said Courtney Galuza, who lives in Marshalee Estates. "I am very concerned about the property value of our homes."

Eric Muller, spokesman for Calvert Ridge homeowners, said discussions with Ryan Homes have continued but that they are awaiting test results to determine the source of the gas.

"We're happy to hear that there is a recommendation on the table, but we're baffled that there is a recommendation and we still don't have the test results from Ryan Homes," he said. Three Calvert Ridge families who evacuated their homes Sept. 2 have refused to allow Ryan Homes to install ventilation systems. They have said that they do not want to move back because they believe their homes were built on a landfill.

Pub Date: 10/16/98

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