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In Cape Coral, hope for drywall fix comes in a fog

Couple put home in hands of firm that claims solution

Aug. 21, 2010
Jason Roach of AbissoCleanse sprays chlorine dioxide in the home of Cape Coral resident Richard Kampf. Roach claims the spray removes residue left behind by defective drywall after it is removed. / Photos by Terry Allen Williams/
Pat Kampf shoots video as chlorine dioxide is sprayed in her home after the removal of defective drywall.


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1:10 A.M. — A Charlotte County-based company called AbissoCleanse is the latest to say it has the real solution to the problem of defective drywall.

Richard and Patti Kampf are testing that claim.

The Cape Coral couple, who are leaders of a grass-roots group of more than 350 drywall homeowners, are tired of their three-year fight to get government and other assistance.

Now they're willing to take a gamble on AbissoCleanse.

"I want my life back," Richard Kampf said. "In my opinion, it is the only workable solution that exists."

The drywall, imported from China mostly between 2004 and 2008, emits sulfur compounds that corrode air conditioning coils, electrical wiring and numerous other metal items. Residents claim health symptoms ranging from nosebleeds to respiratory problems.

Almost 1,400 Lee County homeowners have reported to the property appraiser's office that they have defective drywall.

Some builders, such as Lennar Corp., have gutted the homes, replacing the drywall. Other builders have refused to address the problem or remained silent about it. Many have been sued.

Insurance companies, in some cases, have dropped homeowners who make a drywall claim, or have denied claims.

A slew of companies have said they have a solution to the problem, although the cause of it still is not known.

The only treatment sanctioned by government agencies is gutting the home to its studs and removing electrical wiring.

A protocol issued by federal Judge Eldon Fallon, who presides over multidistrict drywall litigation in New Orleans, goes further, calling for removal of insulation, plumbing and more.

"Our protocol is complete abatement," said Shannon Holland, AbissoCleanse's chief financial officer. The company follows the more rigorous Fallon protocol, then fogs the gutted home with a product called SNiPER, made by Global Environmental Restoration in Lafayette, La.

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SNiPER contains chlorine dioxide that kills sulfur-eating bacteria in the drywall, Holland said. The bacterial action causes the drywall to off-gas the sulfur compounds that cause corrosion, he said. SNiPER neutralizes the compounds, he said.

The SNiPER website calls the product the "ideal biocide non-toxic disinfectant" that kills swine flu to MRSA to salmonella.

AbissoCleanse is the sole distributor of SNiPER in Florida. The company has treated 30 Florida houses, including seven in Cape Coral and 11 in Charlotte County.

The company's method has fans and skeptics.

Drywall always has bacteria, said David Krause, toxicologist for the state health department.

"I haven't seen any proof that bacteria we are seeing are causing the release of gas in the homes," Krause said. "We believe it is a chemical process, rather than a microbial process."

But Michael Foreman, a forensic construction consultant and drywall expert based in Sarasota, is a convert who now works with AbissoCleanse.

"I had every snake-oil salesman in the United States coming to sell me their cure, their magic potion," he said.

But he worked with AbissoCleanse in treating about a dozen test houses and every one turned out clean, he said. One thing he likes about SNiPER is that it is non-toxic, he said.

However, the state Department of Agriculture may have a problem with that term.

The product is registered as a pesticide both with the department and with the EPA, said Craig Bryant, environmental manager for the department.

An inspector was sent to check AbissoCleanse and its method. The report is under review, but advertising that the product is "safe" or "non-toxic" may have to be clarified, he said.

A pesticide can't be called non-toxic while still controlling a pest, Bryant said.

The company typically charges $36 or $37 per square foot to fix the homes, in contrast to the $80-plus per square foot in Fallon's lawsuit rulings. Insurance is included. Clients can also purchase a 10-year warranty for $1,700 that the company doesn't profit from, Holland said.

The Kampfs took out a second mortgage of $125,000 on a property they own up north. They pay $2,000 per month for the mortgage on their Cape Coral home, plus utilities, and rent and utilities on a home they're renting while they deal with the drywall.

"I have mixed emotions about it," Patti Kampf said. "Part of me is happy that the drywall is gone. It's a step in the right direction. Part of me is angry - why do we have to do all this while the builders are fat and happy?"

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