By John Kiesewetter
Enquirer staff writer
LIBERTY TOWNSHIP - With newly installed trees along the street and sprinklers keeping the lawns lush, the houses on Furlong Way look like a premiere new housing development in Butler County's fastest-growing township.
Landscaping at the entrance to the Lexington Manor Subdivision in Liberty Township has been updated as lead cleanup nears completion. All but two residents moved out of the subdivision.
The Enquirer/GLENN HARTONG
But those who get beyond the small "Authorized Personnel Only" sign hung on a mailbox will see 3-foot-deep holes where driveways have been torn out, yellow caution tape across front yards and huge mounds of lead-contaminated soil in the back yards.
So far, 10,000 tons of soil have been hauled out of Ryland Homes' Lexington Manor subdivision, Greater Cincinnati's largest residential hazardous lead cleanup site.
Another 10,000 tons will be removed by the middle of next month, when the cleanup is complete at the 46-lot development on land that was once the site of the Hamilton Sportsman's Association skeet-shooting range.
The houses - which Ryland repurchased for $7.78 million in the past year after being sued by homeowners - will be put back on the market this fall.
"Things are going according to schedule, and they're making good progress," said Steve Renninger, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on-scene coordinator.
Renninger is supervising Ryland's $2.5-million reclamation of the 4-year-old subdivision. Ryland began constructing homes in 2000 after being assured that the property was "suitable for residential development." Two years later, soil samples found dangerously high levels of lead.
Last month, Ryland sued the developer, Harry Thomas Jr. of Fairfield, and the Payne Firm Inc., a Blue Ash environmental engineering company, which said the land was safe.
Work in the final month here will be concentrated on Palomino Court, where the largest amount of lead was discovered, said Winfield Ziegenfuss Jr., Ryland's vice president for land operations.
Soil samples revealed lead levels of 10,000 parts per million at Lexington Manor - far exceeding the government's maximum acceptable standard of 400 parts per million, Renninger said. Lead was found at depths ranging from 6 inches to 19 feet, Ziegenfuss said.
The tainted soil has been stockpiled in five heaps in the back yards of Palomino Court and Back Trail Court.
It is being treated with a phosphate-based additive to stabilize the lead and prevent it from leaching, then trucked to the Rumpke landfill in Colerain Township or the Epperson Waste Disposal landfill in Williamstown, Ky.
Twenty-one of the 32 contaminated lots have been cleaned since April, Ziegenfuss said. And all but eight houses have been repainted and fixed up, ready to put back on the market in September.
"We've re-seeded all the yards. We've applied weed killer and fertilizer every month. We're replaced the street trees. We're very pleased how it looks," Ziegenfuss said.
So are some prospective homebuyers, said John K. Adams, Ryland's Ohio Valley division president. Adams said he receives two or three calls a week from people interested in the empty Lexington Manor homes ranging from $200,000 to $354,000.
"I have 12 individuals that I am in constant contact with, that have expressed a serious interest. Some have chosen specific houses," Adams said.
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