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I-Team Special Report: Harmful Homes

Updated: Wednesday, May 7, 2014 |
I-Team Special Report: Harmful Homes story image
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - A Kalamazoo woman says she was led astray by both the city and the state when she tried to make her home safe for her and her family.

The Newschannel 3 took an inside look at the woman's two year battle to remove lead from her house.

Like most people, Brandi Crawford-Johnson knew very little about the dangers of lead for children or how to remove lead from a home, until it became the all consuming part of her life she's been dealing with for years.

When she bought her 110-year-old house from the City of Kalamazoo she felt it was full of potential, but she says what the city never told her was that it was also full of lead.

"I got a letter from the City of Kalamazoo saying they forgot to give me the disclosure to tell you there was lead. So since they sent me that letter, since they didn't tell me, I said they should have to pay for having my lead removed," Brandi said.

Her 8-year-old son had an elevated lead blood level, and the city agreed to give her $115,000 to remove the lead and cover other costs.

That's when Brandi started dealing with the State of Michigan lead program, which she says introduced her to Midwest Builders.

She signed a contract directly with the company which is based in Nunica.

"The only thing I thought was strange was they weren't wearing protective gear," Brandi said. "I thought the workers would be wearing suits and masks and stuff like that."

Although they didn't tell her, the I-Team uncovered in these state records that state inspectors went to her house in June and issued nine citations to Midwest.

Some of the reasons, according to state paperwork: the company had workers on the site uncertified in handling lead; there was no plastic ground cover being used in the house; crews used ordinary brooms instead of HEPA vacuums; Brandi's heating vents weren't sealed before work started; and unwrapped debris was being tossed on the floors.

Midwest was orginally fined $13,100 but that was later reduced to $2,840.

"They just didn't do it right," said attorney Donnelly Hadden. "They didn't follow the rules correctly and obviously didn't clean up because it's still contaminated."

But Hadden says he's also worried that the state didn't tell Brandi any of this, and the house passed a third-party inspection by a company Midwest chose.

Brandi says she paid Midwest $64,000 and moved back in.

"So she moves back in, thinking it's clean, and the state knew it wasn't; should have known," Hadden said.

"I was really upset, because I didn't know the extent of what they did until six months after they were at my house," said Brandi.

Brandi had her own test done, by another state-recommended lead inspector, and sure enough, according to this inspection, there is still lead throughout the house.

We went to Midwest's office and have asked the company for an explanation for several weeks but haven't heard back.

But as the the I-Team was investigating the story we came across this: Midwest is still one of the top recommended lead removal companies listed on the Michigan Department of Community Health's website. They are even described as qualified to train other companies.

After initially agreeing to let the I-Team interview officials with the lead program, the Department of Community Health later backed out and told us no one could talk to us because of the chance of a lawsuit.

"I'm worried that other families like me think they have a lead clearance that's safe and they probably have lead in their house or yard possibly," Brandi said.

Brandi is living in her house, but so far no one in her family is testing at a high lead blood level.

Two weeks ago she did file a lawsuit against Midwest.

We also found Midwest was just selected by the state to do a new government subsidized project in Battle Creek where a small child is again involved.
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Business News

Last Update on October 21, 2014 17:19 GMT

HOME SALES

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. homes sold in September at their fastest clip this year, yet the housing market has yet to fully shake off a slowdown that began in the middle of 2013.

The National Association of Realtors says sales of existing homes rose 2.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.17 million. Still, the sales rate has dropped 1.7 percent over the past 12 months.

Investors have retreated from the market over the past year. Their departures are being offset by existing homeowners who are upgrading to more expensive properties or downsizing after having raised their children.

Rising prices through much of 2013, weak income growth and tighter credit standards have priced out many would-be buyers. Median home prices rose 5.6 percent over the past 12 months to $209,700.

STAPLES-POSSIBLE BREACH

NEW YORK (AP) -- Staples is looking into a potential credit card data breach and has been in touch with law enforcement officials about the issue.

The office supplies retailer said Tuesday that if it turns up any data discrepancies during its investigation, customers won't be responsible for fraudulent activity on their credit cards as long as it is reported in a timely manner.

"We take the protection of customer information very seriously, and are working to resolve the situation," spokesman Mark Cautela said in a statement.

Earlier this month Sears Holdings Corp. reported a breach at its Kmart stores that started last month, saying some customers' credit and debit cards may have been compromised. Other breaches have occurred at retailers including Target Corp., Supervalu Inc. and Home Depot Inc..

Shares of Staples Inc., based in Framingham, Massachusetts, slipped 3 cents to $12.27 in midday trading. Its shares have fallen 23 percent over the past year.

EARNINGS

UNDATED (AP) -- Coca-Cola and McDonald's are reporting declining profits.

Coke says its third-quarter net income was $2.11 billion, down 14 percent as beverage volume rose 1 percent, thanks to an increase in non-carbonated drinks. The world's biggest beverage maker also announced a new plan that it said will reduce costs by $3 billion a year by 2019. For this year, the company said it expects earnings per share to miss its long-term target.

McDonald's saw customer traffic fall around the world. Sales took a big hit in Asia, where a major supplier was shown on TV repackaging expired beef. In the U.S., McDonald's is fighting to hold onto customers amid shifting tastes toward food people consider more wholesome.

For the quarter, revenue declined to just under $7 billion, falling short of Wall Street expectations.

Also reporting results this morning, Verizon Communications reported lower net income but higher revenue in its third quarter, helped by strong wireless subscriber growth and demand for its FiOS Internet services.

Higher cigarette prices helped cigarette maker Reynolds American's net income rise 2.2 percent in its third quarter.

MORTGAGE RISK RULES

WASHINGTON (AP) -- New U.S. rules aimed at getting banks to take on more of the risk when they package and sell mortgage securities are being relaxed with an eye to spurring broader home lending.

Federal regulators have dropped a key requirement: a 20 percent down payment from the borrower if a bank didn't hold at least 5 percent of the mortgage securities tied to those loans on its books.

The long-delayed final rules unveiled Tuesday by six federal agencies include the less stringent condition that borrowers not carry excessive debt relative to their income.

The board of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. voted 4-1 Tuesday to adopt the rules.

The rules, proposed in stricter form in 2011, were mandated by the overhaul law enacted in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.

STATE UNEMPLOYMENT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Unemployment rates fell in 31 U.S. states in September, including many currently embroiled in tough political campaigns. The report is the final data on state unemployment before the midterm elections Nov. 4.

The Labor Department says that unemployment rates rose in 8 states and were unchanged in 11 states. That is the smallest number of states to see an increase since April.

Employers added jobs in 39 states and cut jobs in 10. South Dakota's job count changed little.

Colorado and Kentucky, two states with hard-fought Senate campaigns, experienced the biggest declines in unemployment. Colorado's fell to 4.7 percent from 5.1 percent, and Kentucky's rate dropped to 6.7 percent from 7.1 percent.

Nationwide, the unemployment rate declined to 5.9 percent in September, from 6.1 percent the previous month.

NAPROXEN RECALL

GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) -- A North Carolina company is recalling nearly 12,000 boxes of pain relief tablets sold at Dollar Tree stores because some cartons contain a different medication that could cause allergic reactions.

Greensboro-based Contract Packaging Resources Inc. says it mistakenly placed bottles of ibuprofen inside boxes sold at Dollar Tree stores nationwide as Assured brand naproxen sodium tablets.

Some consumers buy naproxen sodium pain relievers because of allergies to ibuprofen. The packaging company says reactions that can include hives or life-threatening respiratory problems, but it hasn't received any reports of adverse reactions.

Consumers who bought 15-count boxes of 220mg Assured brand naproxen sodium tablets may return them to the store of purchase or call 336-252-3422.

CVS HEALTH-TOBACCO

CVS develops tobacco-free prescription network

First, CVS Health pulled tobacco from its store shelves. Now, it plans to make some customers think twice about filling prescriptions at other stores that still sell smokes.

The nation's second-largest drugstore chain is developing a new tobacco-free pharmacy network for clients of its Caremark pharmacy benefits management business.

The network would slap an extra co-payment on patients who fill their prescriptions at stores that still sell tobacco. That payment won't apply to prescriptions filled in the tobacco-free network, which would include CVS and Target locations nationally, as well as other pharmacies that abstain. Target Corp. gave up tobacco sales in 1996.

CVS national rivals Walgreen Co. and Rite Aid Corp. still sell tobacco.

The tobacco-free network will only be used by the pharmacy-benefit management customers that choose it.

KIMBERLY-CLARK-JOB CUTS

DALLAS (AP) -- Kimberly-Clark plans to eliminate up to 1,300 jobs as part of restructuring efforts aimed at reducing costs and making its business more efficient.

The consumer products company has 58,000 workers worldwide, according to its website.

Kimberly-Clark Corp. said Tuesday that it anticipates restructuring costs between $130 million and $160 million, after taxes. The company -- whose brands include Kleenex and Huggies -- foresees between $120 million and $140 million in savings by the end of 2017.

The restructuring is expected to be completed by 2016's end.

Kimberly-Clark also cut its 2014 adjusted profit forecast to account for the spinoff of its health care business. The Dallas company now expects an adjusted profit between $5.93 and $6.03 per share, down from its prior range of $6 to $6.15 per share. Analysts polled by FactSet expect $6.06 per share.

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