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Inspectors document methane dig site Gas at Howard subdivision forced 3 families to move


Armed with a camera and wearing a hard hat, David M. Hammerman rushed amid yesterday morning's showers to the Calvert Ridge subdivision in Elkridge, with several inspectors from his inspections, licenses and permits office in tow.

Hammerman, director of the Howard County agency, arrived after learning that builder Ryan Homes had ordered a bulldozer to remove truck tires, lumber, a metal drum, a water heater and other debris buried years ago -- the likely sources of methane gas that forced three families from their homes Sept. 2.

Hammerman and the inspectors wanted to document the material dug up at the site.

"I didn't even know that this was happening today," said Hammerman, standing in the rain while his inspectors took pictures of the activity in the 7000 block of Calvert Drive.

"Ryan Homes informed us weeks ago that they were looking at doing this as a possible option, but they didn't tell us when."

Last month, Ryan Homes officials announced plans to dig behind the home of Bill and Jeanette Bambarger, one of three families evacuated by Howard County Fire and Rescue Services. The builder decided to dig after three engineering firms concluded that organic material was buried there. Residents had suspected their land was once the site of undocumented dumping.

All three displaced families have reached a settlement with Ryan Homes and have moved their possessions into storage as they wait for new homes to be built, said sources familiar with the settlement. A fourth family, which was not evacuated, is negotiating with Ryan Homes, the sources said.

Angry Calvert Ridge residents questioned Hammerman yesterday and said they felt that the county wasn't doing enough. Some brought cameras to document evidence pulled from the ground.

"We paid every penny to move into our homes, and we're paying every last penny to move out of our homes," said Calvert Ridge resident David Eakin, 41, one of the homeowners represented by the Baltimore law firm of Beveridge and Diamond.

Hammerman said he is sympathetic but insists that the homeowners' dispute is with the builder, not the county. He said the county is also awaiting more answers from Ryan Homes.

"I'm rather surprised to see that there is so much debris," he said, watching a bulldozer dig into the soil. "With all the debris, I can imagine that if I lived here, I would be equally upset."

Hammerman said he is working with Ryan Homes, Brantley Development Group president and developer John Liparini, and homeowners. He said he has not received information from Ryan Homes on the levels of methane found at the site.

"I understood that they were going to share that information with us, and I still expect that they will sometime in the near future," Hammerman said.

Robert Coursey, a spokesman for Ryan Homes, was unavailable to comment.

Lawyers representing many of the Calvert Ridge homeowners who were not evacuated said they plan to sue Ryan Homes if their concerns aren't resolved.

VTC "It is more likely than ever that we will proceed with a lawsuit," said Pamela Marks, a lawyer at Beveridge and Diamond, said, "My clients are physically repulsed from watching all of this garbage being pulled out of the ground in their residential neighborhood."

Pub Date: 12/09/98

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