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Senator visits Cape to investigate suspected drywall at Coral Lakes

By Staff | Apr 7, 2009

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., is helping to fuel the fight against the Chinese drywall that is plaguing the lives and homes of residents of the Coral Lakes neighborhood.
On Monday Nelson toured the home of Sonny and Joyce Dowdy, getting a firsthand look at the damages caused by the alleged faulty drywall.
The Dowdys were the first Coral Lakes residents to bring attention to the situation.
“I could smell that pungent smell,” Nelson said of his initial impression of the Dowdys’ home. “In the fresh air you’re good, but when you go in there, it hits you.”
The visit to the Dowdys’ home was the first stop in a multi-city tour for Nelson that includes Port Charlotte and West Palm Beach.
He said there are potentially 60,000 homes throughout Florida and Louisiana that have been built using the Chinese drywall.
Nelson also is calling for the resignation of the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s chairwoman, Nancy Nord.
The commission regulates the manufacture and sale of more than 15,000 consumer products.
“When it comes to the government not protecting consumers, that’s when I swing into action,” he said. “It’s time to take a much more active and vigorous role … who is the responsible party? We need to determine that.”
Residents from around the Coral Lakes neighborhood poured in to listen to and follow Nelson as he toured the Dowdys’ home and another house on the same street.
Some neighbors knew of the visit beforehand, while others arrived after word spread of his arrival.
Richard Laudermilk, whose home contains the suspected drywall, said he found out about potential health problems by word-of-mouth in the neighborhood.
He is part of a class action lawsuit against Engle Homes, the builder responsible for using the drywall.
Laudermilk has owned his home for two years.
“No one knows what to do … you’re stuck,” he said. “My home has lost over half of its value. It’s worthless.”
Like Laudermilk, the value of Cheryl Schlichte’s home has decreased greatly because of the suspected drywall.
Concerned about the health of her family, she has moved from the Cape to Fort Myers Beach.
Schlichte said the government should have been more proactive, and have not let the Chinese drywall into the country.
“The federal government should have been more protective,” she said.
The Dowdys praised the work of Nelson, saying he is been doing a “wonderful job” of spreading the word about the drywall.
Like many of their neighbors, the Dowdys are in a holding pattern — waiting to see if the drywall is toxic, waiting on the pending lawsuit and waiting to see if their health holds out.
“This is a new problem, so nobody really knows what to do,” Joyce said. “You just hope your health won’t be impaired.”