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Published: Friday, 12/22/2006

Flood lawsuit adds top health official

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The lawsuit blaming the city of Toledo for the floods that damaged dozens of homes last summer was expanded yesterday with a request that the Lucas County health commissioner test the affected homes for mold.

The suit filed in Lucas County Common Pleas Court claims Health Commissioner David Grossman has not adequately tested for air and surface contamination after sewage invasions starting June 21 in homes in West and southwest Toledo.

Detroit attorney Phillip Bazzo, who is leading the class-action suit, said he asked for a court order requiring Dr. Grossman to test and decontaminate homes that were flooded.

These folks are out of money, don t have insurance coverage, Mr. Bazzo said after filing his amendment to the suit yesterday. These folks actually had sewage in their homes. They were trudging around in sewage.

The suit, originally filed Nov. 2, names the city, the Lucas County commissioners, Lucas County Engineer Keith Earley, CSX Transportation, Arcadis G&M of Ohio, Norfolk Southern Corp., and BP Pipelines North America Inc. as defendants.

The suit accuses the defendants of design and maintenance failures with the Shantee Creek and Haefner Ditch.

As plaintiffs, it lists 102 people in the Bennett Park area of West Toledo area and 16 residents of Longwood Park near Reynolds Road and Dorr Street.

Dr. Grossman said the health department has responded to all calls for help during and after the flooding.

He also said the health department has no money or authority to conduct actual decontamination.

We ve been to these homes. We did house-to-house inspecting. If there s an issue or an illness, we d definitely go in and inspect and see what needs to be done, Dr. Grossman said.

He said homeowners were instructed in detail how to rid their basements of mold.

He said he was aware of but could not immediately comment on the case of Tim Kalka, a West Crawford Avenue resident who was hospitalized with what was described as septic pneumonia after having spent several days cleaning his basement.

Mr. Kalka and his wife, Bonnie, are plaintiffs in the suit.

Robert Reinbolt, chief of staff for Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, said the city advised homeowners on how to combat mold, which is caused by dampness and which can cause respiratory illness.

I don t see it as our responsibility that we go in and clean up each of those homes.

This is a situation that was caused by an act of nature, not by us, Mr. Reinbolt said.

The extent of respiratory ailments caused by the flooding is not spelled out in the suit.

Mr. Bazzo said, I have probably at least a dozen households that complained of breathing difficulties, allergic reactions, rashes.

The city has denied any fault in the design of the ditches, and said the flooding was the result of record amounts of rainfall.

However, the city has speeded up and expanded its plans for upgrading Shantee Creek.

The plaintiff s law firm, Williams, Jilek, Lafferty, Gallagher & Scott, has sent letters to homeowners and held several meetings for possible plaintiffs.

Additional meetings are set for noon and 3 p.m. Jan. 13 at the UAW Local 14 Hall, 5411 Jackman Rd.



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