Hundreds Pack Forum On Chinese Drywall

MANDEVILLE, La. (AP) -- Hundreds of homeowners seeking information on what to do about Chinese drywall that was used in their homes jammed a meeting on the topic at Mandeville's city hall Wednesday night.

The forum was arranged by state Sens. Julie Quinn, R-Metairie, and A.G. Crowe, R-Slidell.

Drywall imported from China was used in many south Louisiana homes after Hurricane Katrina created shortages of building materials. But lawsuits have been filed claiming the products emit chemical compounds that cause health problems and damage to pipes; state and federal agencies are investigating.

At Wednesday's forum, lawyers signed up clients.

Quinn recommended that homeowners who have Chinese drywall call the attorney general's office to report it because Attorney General Buddy Caldwell is trying to get a count of how many people in the state have been affected.

Jeremy Alters, an attorney from Miami, urged people to let the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission know they have Chinese drywall.

Alters advised people not to remove the drywall until a protocol is set up on how to remediate and, for litigation purposes, how to document that a person has Chinese drywall. Alters said New Orleans-based U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon, who is presiding over the national litigation over Chinese drywall, is expected to set up procedures.

St. Bernard resident Christy Moritz said during the meeting that when she bought a rebuilt house she thought she was making a smart financial decision in buying her first home. She noticed an odor, but thought it was because the house had been closed up for a year. But then a pet turtle and a pet rabbit died. Then the air conditioner broke and the flat-screen panel on her television went bad. Her stepfather found Chinese drywall in the attic. Moritz said she wakes up with headaches every day but says she can't afford to move.

Lucille Bourdon, 79, built a new house in Covington after Katrina. But not long after moving in, she started feeling ill. Her air conditioning unit, hot water heater, pipes and security system went bad, and even her silverware started turning black.

When her son, Charles Venturella, found Chinese drywall in her house in August, he immediately moved her into a trailer. But now, they don't know what to do. "At my age, I don't have a year to wait," Bourdon said.

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