Senators hold Town Hall meeting on Chinese Drywall


Chinese Drywall in Louisana

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A colossal crowd unsuccessfully tried to squeeze inside of the Mandeville City Council chambers, eager to get answers on what to do about their contaminated Chinese drywall.

Many, however, walked out of the meeting hopeful, while the drywall manufacturers, sellers and distributors continue to play the blame game.

“I want your e-mails. I want your contact information,” Sen. Julie Quinn, R-Metairie, told the audience.

It was a massive mobilization in the wake of an unforeseen disaster.

“I have two small children at home,” said Slidell man Jaime Green. “It’s just very scary.”

Hundreds packed Mandeville City Hall, having only standing room in the town hall meeting.

“I knew it was going to be crowded,” said one Mandeville resident. “But I didn’t think it was going to be this crowded.”

As the meeting went on, more residents waited outside for an unplanned second meeting afterwards that would accommodate the overflow.

“How do we fix the problem? Who’s going to pay to fix the house?” asked Mandeville resident Charlene Hernandez. “Should we move out? We have two small children, what’s in their best interest?”

At the helm of the info session was Quinn, whose previous legislation aimed at making it easier for drywall victims to recoup their damages, died on the senate floor.  It would have allowed homeowners to collect attorneys fees plus 100 percent of the money needed to replace the drywall from the manufacturer, distributor or seller.

“The legislators in Baton Rouge…literally laughed me out of the capitol and said this is not a problem,” said Quinn.

The senator’s words and efforts found traction Wednesday night amid an audience that has run out of options.

When Quinn asked “how many in this room have received denial letters from insurers,” nearly everyone in the council chambers raised their hands.  When she then asked “has anyone had any coverage from their insurer,” not a single hand was raised.

A Florida attorney, well versed on the issue, urged those affected to file complaints with the federal government’s Consumer Product Safety Commission.

“There’s probably 40,000 [contaminated drywall cases] in the country, but we only have 1,100 filed,” said Jeremy Alters.  “So if you want to start seeing governmental action at the federal level, you have to start reporting these claims.”

A health expert later spoke of the potential effects from the drywall.

“These gases can be neurotoxic in certain concentrations,” said Microbiologist Dr. Mark Rigler. “They can cause dizziness, they can cause headaches, some of them can cause more than that.”

As for the good news, he added that tests have so far found relatively low traces of those components in affected homes.

It’s little consolation for frustrated and tired homeowners who say they no longer have the money or the patience to go on.

“You go from a position to finally getting Katrina behind you, to having to get another mortgage and find a place to rent,” said Bill Green of Slidell. “Our whole world has been turned upside down in a matter of two months.”

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