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Robert Trigaux

Chinese drywall concern in Florida rises rapidly on Sen. Bill Nelson's priority list

BillnelsonAP Wake up and good morning. The focus on Chinese drywall -- the kind that apparently corrodes air conditioning systems and metal in homes where it is found, and in some cases provokes respiratory problems with residents -- is shifting from Florida to Washington. Hearings held last week and growing interest in the subject by such U.S. senators as Bill Nelson of Florida and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana suggest federal pressure to assign blame and seek a remedy of this mess is only beginning. Here's a Q&A on where some of the  issues stand. (Nelson photo by AP.)

Nelson and Landrieu, both Democrats, had filed a budget amendment to help fund the expedited testing of drywall in homes, but the request was derailed in an unrelated procedural hurdle. Senate Appropriations Committee chairman Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii told Nelson he would direct the Consumer Product Safety Commission (which Nelson says has been dragging its feet) to use more than $2 million of its budget for extensive drywall testing. (Here's a May 1 letter from CPSC acting chairman Nancy Nord to Sen. Nelson outlining the agency's plan for investigating the drywall matter.)

Nelson, it seems, has decided to make the resolution of the drywall problem one of his pet issues for now, much to the delight of those Florida homeowners who have either fled their homes for health reasons or, after trying to sell affected homes, find there are no interested buyers. Nelson's indicated this could be a bigger problem for Florida than anything we’ve seen since the hurricanes.

Wrote the Sarasota Herald Tribune: "Suffice it to say, a lot has changed since January, when questions about tainted drywall were generally met with blank stares in Congress."

Around Florida, the drywall drumbeat continues. In today's Scripps Howard newspapers dotting Florida's "treasure coast" near Jupiter and Stuart, here's what columnist Anthony Westbury wrote:

"I interviewed a Port St. Lucie couple who’ve been forced to leave their dream home because of fumes and toxins they say are given off by their wallboard. I visited an empty foreclosed home where all the copper wiring and pipes had turned black and the air reeked so badly of sulfur it was difficult to breathe. I talked with local contractors who say there are similar cases all over the Treasure Coast."

-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist

[Last modified: Tuesday, June 1, 2010 12:25pm]

    

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