BRENDA BRINCKU HOME OWNER
SUBCOMMITTEE ON CONSUMER AFFAIRS, INSURANCE, AND AUTOMOTIVE SAFETY, SCIENCE AND TRANSPORTATION U.S. SENATE
I want to thank the subcommittee for the opportunity to submit this statement. I also want to thank Senator Nelson for his determined efforts to help the home owners of Florida and elsewhere who are experiencing this devastating problem.
My name is Brenda Brincku. Our story begins in February 2004 when we began construction of our new home. We were the owner-builder of this home. The home was completed on October 5, 2004. By May 24, 2006, approximately 18 months later we replaced our first air conditioner evaporator coil due to corrosion (turned black and would not operate). Within the next 2 ½ years we replaced 6 other coils for the same reason.
According to Nemeth Air Conditioning this is not a normal occurrence. We were concerned, but unsure as to the cause. Additionally, we began to notice other unexplainable issues such as wiring of light switches, electronic and appliances becoming faulty. Other metals such as jewelry, faucets, fire sprinklers, furniture, and light fixtures became corroded with a black substance and pitting occurred.
Again, we were concerned, but did not understand the cause of these issues.
On December 20, 2009 an article in the Fort Myers News Press pertaining to Chinese Drywall, described all of the issues we were experiencing. Upon reading the article we began to research Chinese Drywall thinking this may be the cause of these unexplainable happenings. We then contacted Clark Elderidge at the Florida Department of Health. He suggested we contact David Krause, the State Toxicologist. Upon contacting Mr. Krause, he informed us that in the end of January they would be testing homes for Chinese Drywall in the area.
In the mean time, we began our own investigation of our drywall and after reviewing pictures taken of the upstairs drywall before the installment, we determined at least in the upstairs we had no Chinese drywall. All of the pictures indicate the only drywall used upstairs was from National Gypsum Goldbond. Additionally, our subcontractor insisted he used only American drywall in our home. At that point we were confused since we did not find any Chinese drywall in our home.
We began searching the internet for answers. We contacted Thomas Eagar, Sc.D., P.E. of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). We explained our situation and our health concerns regarding our 8 year old son, Harrison. He agreed to help us by testing samples of our drywall and other corroded items from our house. On January 5, 2009 we submitted samples to Thomas Eagar and Dr. Harold R. Larson, both of MIT. The samples consisted of drywall from National Gypsum Goldbond, National Gypsum Gridmarx & US Gypsum (all of which are recycled wallboard), corroded copper pennies, copper wiring & metal from our jewelry box.
From the samples sent, MIT only tested the National Gypsum Goldbond drywall sample taken from our air conditioning closet upstairs. They indicated our electrical system must be inspected and possibly replaced as the sulfurous gases causing the corrosion have accelerated the aging process of wiring by tenfold or more. In other words, our four year old home has the wiring of a 40 year old home. Based on the report we received, both Professor Thomas Eagar and Dr. Harold Larson believe our drywall to be defective.
On January 29, 2009, David Krause the Florida State Toxicologist, Tim Wallace – State Environmental Specialist and Bob Kallotte came to the house and obtained samples and photographs. Based on the official signs determined by the state, these men determined our home contained defective drywall. As a side note – several of the photos of our home, taken by the state, are now being used on State Department of Health website as indicators to help people determine if they may have defective drywall.
Currently, the Florida State Department of Health is testing the samples obtained in January. We are awaiting the results of those tests. Bob Kallotte from the Florida Department of Health based on his observations, our home appears to have the worst case of defective drywall he has witness to date.
After receiving the results from MIT we contacted Jack Walker, an officer of National Gypsum. We communicated MIT’s findings and informed him of the Florida Department of Health’s investigation. He initially stated he would come to our home and take a look at our findings. However, after several phone calls and a month later, he had not observed our findings. At this time we felt we needed to seek legal assistance.
We contacted Robert D. Gary of Gary, Naegele & Theado, LLC. Upon Mr. Gary contacting their General Counsel Sam Schiffman, National Gypsum initiated the request to test our home and we requested that they provide us the results. This occurred on March 5th – 11th. National Gypsum and Packer Engineering opened every wall in our home and determined 219 wallboards were National Gypsum Goldbond and/or National Gypsum Gridmarx and 18 boards were from US Gypsum. All of these boards came from recycled materials. They did not find any Chinese drywall in our home.
Of the 237 wallboards, 15 samples of drywall (11 National Gypsum) were taken, however, only 6 of the 11 National Gypsum boards were tested. After completing their initial evaluation, observations and testing of our home National Gypsum concluded that we had no defective drywall. However, we meet four of the five criteria determined by the Florida Department of Health. The only criteria we did not meet, was the presence of Chinese drywall.
According to National Gypsum’s press release, air testing was also performed and determined there were no detectable levels of sulfur compounds in the home. However, all of the testing was performed during a very low humidity time of year and no air conditioning had been used nor needed in the weeks prior to testing and during the testing. It has been well documented that the chemical reaction causing the sulfuric gases occurring in the wallboard occurs during times of very high heat and humidity.
National Gypsum acknowledged there was a serious problem in our home, but denied any issues with the drywall.
During the testing we experienced several respiratory issues – uncontrollable coughing, respiratory drainage and eye irritation. We believe this is related the gases being released after cutting into the drywall. In addition, over the past four years our family has experienced various health problems including nose bleeds, respiratory issues, irritated eyes, dizziness, shortness of breath, severe headaches and fainting.
Due to our concerns regarding our health and the potential of fire, related to the faulty wiring, we made the difficult decision to move from our home and find other living accommodations. We are currently renting a house and therefore have been unable to pay our mortgage on top of our rental payments. We contacted Wells Fargo our mortgage company and requested a payment suspension for six months until we are able to determine the outcome of the current investigations. Wells Fargo denied our request and they are threatening foreclosure proceedings. The foreclosure process is scheduled to begin June 9, 2009.
In conclusion, this ordeal has completely consumed our lives from the loss of our home, health concerns to the decreased attention to our landscaping business. With that said we are deeply committed to finding the truth. Our in depth research and findings have lead us to truly believe that not only is there a Chinese drywall problem in our country, but an American drywall problem, as well. It is yet to be determined if the cause is due to recycled drywall or something not yet uncovered. Regardless, attention and further detailed investigations need to occur in order to uncover the truth and restore not only our home, but those of the thousands of families that are being affected by this tragedy. I hope that my statement will serve as a catalyst to examine the health and safety issues that may involve American as well as the Chinese dry wall. Again, thank you for this opportunity to share my family’s story.