Owensboro-based MPD inc. along with Kansas-based property management firm Cohen-Esrey Communities, LLC have failed to alleviate concerns surrounding trichloroethylene (TCE), say residents of Owensboro Historic Residence.

On June 16, residents were notified via letter from Cohen-Esrey employee and OHR property manager Jessica Walton that MPD, 316 E. Ninth St. and directly across the street from the Historic Residence, had discovered TCE “in groundwater beneath its building.”

TCE, a known human carcinogen, is a halocarbon commonly used as an industrial solvent to remove oils and grease from metal parts during manufacturing, to make refrigerants and other chemicals. It is also commonly used among dry cleaners.

This announcement prompted residents of OHR to demand a community meeting with MPD and Cohen-Esrey so that pressing questions regarding exposure and potential risks could be answered. The meeting, which took place on Tuesday, was “pointless,” said Kadara “Kas” Scott, OHR resident.

“Basically, everyone was talking in circles,” she said. “There weren’t clear answers. The main answer was how long has this been going on and no one knew for sure. Apparently MPD only became aware of the issue because they had to refinance with the city and part of that is carrying out a host of tests, but no one could answer how long this has been going on.”

In a press statement released by MPD on Tuesday, the company informed Cohen-Esrey of the presence of the TCE vapor in early January, five months prior to residents being notified by Walton.

“As part of its investigation, in August 2019, MPD initiated a vapor intrusion study by obtaining sub-slab vapor samples from 301 E. 9th St. (the “OHR Building”), the only building known to have a basement (other than MPD) in the area of contamination,” according to the release. “In December, 2019, ambient air samples in unoccupied areas of the basement of the OHR Building showed the presence of TCE at levels slightly in excess of regulatory screening levels for a residential site, yet orders of magnitude below OSHA-required levels established for a safe-working environment for an 8-hour day. MPD shared the results with the owner in early January.”

Initially, residents were informed via Walton’s letter that there was no exposure above the basement, but Tuesday’s meeting with representatives of MPD and “experts” that they brought in the attempt to alleviate tensions, prove the opposite, said Scott.

“They are installing air testing systems on each floor that gather samples for eight hours to ensure what the levels are, which is the opposite of what the property manager said,” Scott said. “She said there wasn’t risk of exposure above the basement and the narrative from MD yesterday suggests the opposite. Basically the whole meeting was them convincing us that it was safe for us to live here.”

Despite efforts from multiple company-related people presenting a safety message, with a doctor ensuring tenants that, “they could live in the basement for 30 years and not be affected by the mild levels,” the speakers opted to stay outside during a storm that occurred during the meeting instead of going to the basement, Scott said.

“It began to rain and all of these experts preferred to get rained on than be in the community room of our basement for 30 minutes,” she said. “It is safe for us, but not for them. I found it hilarious that we could be down there for 30 years, but they couldn’t be down there for 30 minutes.”

Residents were told that there would be no penalties for breaking their lease if they decided to move out because of the chemical.

Scott and her family have opted to leave OHR, Scott said.

“They have known since January, and we are just finding out,” she said. “In that time, the property manager has limited her hours at the building and has moved her son out. The reps from Cohen-Esrey said they would live in the building, but yet they didn’t want to go in the basement. There has been a lot of misinformation because our property manager didn’t know what she was talking about and pretended that she did to shut us out. My family is leaving the building, and I think other will as well. The property manger is on a rampage and is gossiping about tenants and threatening eviction for anyone that complains. It seems their focus now is signing new leases with people that don’t know or don’t care about the risk. The whole situation has been mishandled.”

Walton and Cohen-Esrey did not respond to interview requests.

Jacob Mulliken, 270-228-2837, jmulliken@messenger-inquirer.com

Jacob Mulliken, 270-228-2837, jmulliken@messenger-inquirer.com

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