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Homeowners threaten suit over methane Builder, developer did not disclose dump site, they argue; 'Upsetting and disturbing'; Backyard excavation found debris thought to be source of gas


Three months after methane gas forced three families to evacuate their homes in the Calvert Ridge subdivision in Elkridge, lawyers for 17 homeowners in the development said yesterday that they plan to sue the builder and the developer for failing to disclose that the houses were built on a dumping ground.

Robert Brager and Pamela Marks, attorneys with the Baltimore law firm Beveridge and Diamond, said they issued a notice of intent to sue the builder, Ryan Homes, and the developer, Brantly Development Group, under a federal environmental law for placing their clients in "imminent and substantial endangerment."

"This situation has been deeply upsetting and disturbing to the residents who live here," Marks said at a news conference yesterday in the 7000 block of Calvert Drive. "The builder and developer knew of the condition, and they concealed it from our clients."

Robert Coursey, a spokesman for Ryan Homes, would not comment specifically on the lawsuit.

"It is not Ryan Homes' intention to discuss litigation and make our case through the media," Coursey said.

John Liparini, developer and president of Brantly Development Group, could not be reached to comment.

Backyard debris

Last week, Ryan Homes began digging behind the home of Bill and Jeanette Bambarger, one of the three families evacuated by Howard County Fire and Rescue Services after methane gas was detected in their basement Sept. 2. Ryan Homes officials decided to dig after three engineering firms concluded that organic material was buried there.

Bulldozers unearthed truck tires, lumber, a metal drum, a water heater and other debris buried years ago. Ryan Homes officials said tests indicated that the source of the methane was limited to the area behind the Bambargers' home and that they have no plans to excavate other areas of the subdivision.

"We are following the plan recommended by our environmental experts and endorsed by [former County Executive] Chuck Ecker," Coursey said. Once all the materials are unearthed and recovered, Ryan Homes officials will invite the fire department to return and retest for methane gas, he added.

Homeowners say they're not satisfied with Ryan's efforts.

"They have to dig up everything," Brager said. "Our clients thought they were buying in a new community that was clean."

Brager said that in 90 days he will file suit unless the builder and developer agree to "investigate and fully disclose all contamination in and about Calvert Ridge" and "remove all solid waste and contaminated soil" in the development. Brager said Ryan Homes has rejected an offer to buy his clients' homes.

'I can't take this'

"I can't take this anymore," said Don Angeletti, 40, a Calvert Ridge homeowner who alerted fire officials after the gas detector in his home went off yesterday morning. Angeletti's detector also sounded an alarm last week, as did another detector in a nearby Calvert Ridge home. In each case, fire officials responded, but no methane gas was detected.

"We're living in sheer terror. We can't enjoy the holidays, and our kids are scared," Angeletti said.

Pub Date: 12/16/98

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