Flagler County Records its First Chinese Drywall Cases

Two homes have been confirmed as having toxic drywall which originated in China. Toxic drywall can emit sulfur gas, causing health concerns and corroding metal surfaces.

Palm Coast, FL – July 30, 2009 – Flagler County, Florida has registered its first two cases of toxic Chinese drywall. To date, the toxic drywall problem was limited mostly to South Florida, where the bulk of the Chinese drywall entered the country.  At an informational "town meeting” he hosted last week in Palm Coast, attorney Dave Durkee predicted that it was only a matter of time before the problem surfaced locally since some material entered through Port Canaveral. He was right.
Two homes, one in the E section of Palm Coast and the other in the P section have been confirmed by the Flagler County Environmental Health department to contain toxic drywall manufactured in China. Both homes were constructed in 2006 by the same Ormond Beach builder in 2006. The E section home showed the most severe signs of contamination; strong sulfur odor and black sooty deposits on exposed copper surfaces (electrical wire, copper pipes, and air conditioning condenser coils. The home is owned by a Washington state resident. A tenant once occupied the home but moved, apparently because of the environmental conditions.
The second home had fewer symptoms; only a slight odor and a sooty black deposit on the air conditioning condenser coils. The owner, homesteaded since 2008, resides there.
What is the Chinese drywall problem? During the building boom, shortages of construction materials forced builders and their subcontractors to seek alternate supply sources. Some builders and/or their subcontractors substituted drywall manufactured in China. Unknown at the time, the Chinese drywall apparently contained materials that react adversely with high temperatures and high humidity (Florida). The result is the emission of sulfur gases which attack certain metallic surfaces, particularly copper and silver.
Toxic drywall is not a minor problem. Beside corrosion, residents in other areas have reported some adverse health issues; headaches, breathing difficulty, etc. The bigger problem is remediation. What has to be done and who is going to pay for it?


The only way to remediate the problem is to strip the house to the studs and remove all affected electrical wiring, copper plumbing, and air conditioning equipment. Most estimates put this expense in the $100 thousand range for the average home. Of course the residents must find alternative housing for approximately six months.

Who pays?

Homeowner policies do not cover the loss. Some builders (among them, WCI Communities and Lennar) are stepping up to the plate, pledging remediation funds. Presumably, they will then look to their product defect insurance carrier for reimbursement. Homeowners unable to settle directly with their builder can file a lawsuit against the builder. The builder’s insurance company would be the ultimate target. The Florida Consumer Product Defect statues make the builder (hence their insurance company) liable regardless of good faith, intent, or knowledge. Only the defect must be proven. Durkee recommends this approach because the class action alternative can take years to work through the legal system.

Flagler County response

Mortgage payments still have to be met, insurance premiums paid, maintenance continued (code enforcement), lawns watered, and utilities paid. However, the county is doing what it can do to give homeowners some relief. The Flagler County Property Appraiser’s office has already inspected the two affected homes and plans to adjust the assessment accordingly, with consideration to the dollar loss as well as the loss of functional use.
County staff and the Flagler County Property Appraiser have discovered that the builder was issued only two building permits. They learned that the builder was also issued approximately 10 remodeling permits of the type that would typically require drywall installation. The appraiser  will proactively reach out to these homeowners to help determine if their homes exhibit symptoms of toxic drywall.

What to look for:

If you suspect toxic drywall may have been installed in your home, here are some symptoms to look for:

·         After turning off the central power, examine electrical outlets in each room for signs of black sooty deposits on exposed copper wiring. The ground wire is a good place to look.
·         Sulfur odor.
·         Unexplained multiple failure of appliances and electrical equipment.
·         Check the copper coils of your air conditioning unit for similar deposits. If your relatively new unit has required replacement in an unexpectedly short time, be suspect.
·         Check exposed copper pipes (under the sinks) for black deposits.
·         Have you noticed unusual tarnishing of metal objects, silver, the edges of mirrors, etc.?

After inspection, you have reason to believe you may have toxic drywall, contact the Flagler County Environmental Health department. Only an inspection can confirm the presence of toxic drywall.

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4 replies
  1. George
    George says:

    More data would help

    So who is the builder, and what was the name of sheetrock subcontactor? Who was the material supplier? Is the warranty going to pick up the costs as I hear many builders warranties are doing? Just what drop in value is the county appraiser calculating? What are the street address of the known properties with bad sheet rock?

  2. Bonnie Chewcaski
    Bonnie Chewcaski says:


    It was reported by the Palm Beach Post that an inspection was performed by a professional inspector following complete gutting of the house. The report said that the nails, metal strapping, etc. had also been compromised thus requiring removal of all studs, roof trusses, etc.

  3. Cynthia
    Cynthia says:

    Where to get some good info on Chinese drywall

    Here is a really good site that has been following the scandal with defective Chinese drywall since it began and continues to post informative articles on emerging news: www.chinese-drywall-answers.com

  4. Toby
    Toby says:

    Reply to George

    At this time, the Health Department is not releasing names of bulders or the addresses of affected properties. They state that they are still in the survey stage of their investigation to assess the extent of the problem.

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