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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 September 03, 2015 07:35 GMT

ECONOMY-THE DAY AHEAD

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Labor Department will report today on the number of people who applied for unemployment benefits last week. Also, the Commerce Department will report on the U.S. trade gap for July.

The Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing managers, will also issue its index of non-manufacturing activity for August. And Freddie Mac will release weekly mortgage rates.

IMF-WORLD ECONOMY

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The International Monetary Fund says China's slowdown, volatile financial markets and tumbling raw-materials prices have raised the risks to economic growth around the world.

In an assessment of global threats published as finance ministers and central bankers meet this week in Turkey, the IMF is urging wealthy countries to continue easy money policies and "growth friendly" tax and spending programs.

It says some emerging-market countries should let their currencies fall substantially to support exporters and economic growth, adding that they should also enact reforms to make their economies more efficient.

The IMF says the Chinese economic slowdown appears to have had larger-than-expected repercussions in other countries. China's troubles have sent the prices of raw materials such as oil and copper into a freefall, pinching Brazil, Russia and other commodity exporters.

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- An Associated Press survey of nearly a dozen big cities reveals emergency planning for crude oil trains remains a work in progress.

The 100-car trains are loaded with crude oil from the Upper Midwest and rumble past schools, homes and businesses.

Cities around the country are scrambling to formulate emergency plans and train firefighters amid the latest safety threat: a fiftyfold increase in crude shipments that critics say has put millions of people living or working near the tracks at heightened risk of derailment, fire and explosion.

The mile-long trains from North Dakota carry around 3 million gallons of crude. Federal officials say a severe accident in a city could kill more than 200 people and cause $6 billion in damage.

The trains have become a common sight in places like Philadelphia, Chicago and Seattle.

TESLA-CHEAPER CAR

DETROIT (AP) -- Tesla Motors says it will unveil its lower-cost Model 3 electric car in March and will start taking orders then.

In a tweet Wednesday, Tesla CEO Elon Musk says the car will start at $35,000, or about half the starting price of its current Model S sedan. Musk said the Model 3 will start production in about two years.

Musk also said deliveries of the Model X SUV -- the company's third vehicle -- will begin Sept. 29. Tesla wouldn't reveal pricing details.

Musk said each trim level of the Model X will be around $5,000 more than the equivalent trim level of the Model S because of the SUV's greater size and complexity.

SONY-HACK-EMPLOYEE LAWSUIT

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Lawyers for former Sony Pictures Entertainment employees whose data was breached last year say they have tentatively reached a settlement with the company.

Wednesday's filing in a proposed class-action lawsuit does not detail settlement terms or how many current and former Sony employees would be covered by the settlement.

Plaintiffs' attorney Daniel Girard wrote that he and fellow lawyers believe the settlement is favorable to employees whose personal, financial and medical information was posted online.

Additional details about the settlement are expected to be filed in a Los Angeles federal court by mid-October.

At least 10 former Sony employees sued the company over the breach, seeking class-action status for the nearly 50,000 people whose data was stolen and posted online by hackers.

Sony declined comment on the proposed settlement.

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