Rally for the Cause shines light on local battle with toxic drywall
Organizer Brenda Brincku called toxic drywall “the silent hurricane” at a rally Saturday in North Fort Myers to raise awareness of the issue.
“It’s a devastation financially. People are having to move out of their homes and people can’t afford rent and a mortgage payment, and they’re worried about their insurance being canceled,” she said.
Brincku compared the situation to people stuck on their roofs in New Orleans with the hurricane and helicopters going by.
“The government needs to understand that people are going to walk away from their homes because they are not going to pay for a toxic house they can’t live in,” she said.
The event, called the Rally for the Cause, was held at the Shell Factory & Nature Park.
“The reason we decided to have the rally is because we’re focusing on the effects to children. It’s pretty devastating — kids have to move out, you have to sell things to survive. We sold our boat and a golf cart and more,” Brincku said.
“It’s consumed us for 11 months, we’re trying to figure out what went wrong,” she said. “We moved out of our house on March 19 and sometimes the financial strain is overwhelming, worrying about our future.”
Brincku and her husband, George Brincku of Alva, organized the event with Richard and Patti Kampf of Cape Coral.
The Kampfs have been living with toxic Chinese drywall for just over two years. The Brinckus have American-made drywall.
“It’s not only a Chinese drywall problem but American as well,” she said. “The message is that people need help now, not six months from now, to survive.”
Defective American drywall has the same symptoms as the Chinese product, according to Brincku.
“We had to move out because it has corroded everything in our home,” she said.
Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp, whose Southwest Florida home contains the toxic drywall, was the guest speaker at the Rally for the Cause.
“I’ve brought in folks from the Department of Health and I’m trying to get some answers on whether or not there are long-term health problems related to this,” he said. “The preliminary tests seem to suggest the answer to that is no. However, I think as both lieutenant governor and a father, I’d like to have a little bit more concrete answers as these people would on that issue.
“The next issue is: What is the solution?” Kottkamp said. “We need to have a process in place so these people have help and know that this will be over some day. That’s the next thing I’m pushing.
“What seems to be lacking in my view is the lack of urgency,” he continued. “We know there at least 30,000 homes in Florida, at least 100,000 homes in America and I don’t know if that’s high or low.”
But it is affecting many families, Kottkamp said.
“If this is how you want to gain awareness, this (the rally) is how you do it — you let your voices be heard,” he said.
The Brinckus said they recently traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with government officials. Their story was picked up by the Associated Press, CBS News and the Washington Post.
Attendees of the Rally for the Cause were asked to bring an 8-by-10 photo of their family, which were then affixed to a display during the event.
Cape Coral resident Joyce DeFrancisco added a family photo to the display.
“That’s my husband and I. He’s in a wheelchair,” she said. “We have the drywall, and he’s not handling this situation very well.”
Attorney Allison Grant, from Shapiro, Blasi, Wasserman & Gora of Boca Raton, represents the Kampfs.
“We started a Web site called chinesedrywall.com to help educate people and to learn ourselves about the issue. We’re getting sometimes up to 100,000 hits a day from people all over the world,” she said.
On the issue of defective American drywall, Grant said it appears some of the materials may have been recycled from toxic Chinese drywall.
“We’re hearing more and more about it,” she said.
Pamela J. Cronin, owner of the Shell Factory & Nature Park, called the rally a necessary event.
“It was really important for us to host this event to help get the word out,” she said. “We need to get the attention of public officials, it is kind of being ignored. It is getting some lip service, but we feel there has to be a consorted effort.
“And a lot of people haven’t reported to the Consumer Product Safety Commission and people need to know that’s what they need to do,” Cronin said. “To get a larger group and get their voices heard.”