NEWPORT NEWS — Victims of defective Chinese drywall demanded an audience with Gov. Bob McDonnell at Monday's meeting of the Defective Drywall Task Force.
"All I keep hearing is request this, request that," said Amanda Fowle of Newport News, referring to members of the task force. "You should be doing more demanding for us. Break down the walls. You lead the charge."
Fowle said maybe McDonnell focusing his attention on the problem could help because the government response so far has been slow and ineffective.
Chinese drywall, which was used in home construction, releases toxic gases, including hydrogen sulfide causing corrosion of appliances and wiring, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
One of the many problems is figuring out how the houses can be repaired to the point that the home can be considered free of the drywall gases. The Consumer Product Safety Commission released interim remediation guidelines, but has yet to issue final guidelines. And insurance companies have not been covering the cost of repairs.
"They're all cowards," Fowle said of the task force, which was meeting Monday at The Mariners' Museum in Newport News. "They're too afraid to say anything or do anything."
Fowle, who moved out of her home in the Hollymeade subdivision last year because the smell was causing her health problems, is struggling to keep her home from falling into foreclosure.
"I'm living in my mother's garage," she said.
Jim Cheng, Virginia's secretary of commerce and trade who is heading up the task force, vowed to look into whether the governor could attend a drywall meeting and tour a house with defective drywall. He said another possibility would be McDonnell meeting with a few drywall victims.
"We'll try our best," said Cheng, who was appointed by McDonnell to lead the drywall effort.
Bill Shelton, director of Virginia's department of Housing and Community Development, said anyone who spends money now fixing up their homes may have to go back in and fix it again if the final guidelines differ from the interim guidelines.
About 350 homes in Virginia are affected, mostly in the Hampton Roads area, including Newport News, York County and Williamsburg. Thousands of homes are affected nationwide, with large concentrations in Florida and Louisiana.
And then there's the cost of repair, which many homeowners said was nearly the cost of buying new.
Steve Heischober of Virginia Beach said remediating his home would cost about $380,000. He can't live there anymore, because he would break out in painful, all-body rashes.
There's no definitive link of drywall gases to long-term health problems, but many residents said they have to move because it's too harmful on their health.
"It's so gosh darn obvious that people are getting sick in these homes," said state Del. Glenn Oder, R-Newport News.
To watch a video of Jim Cheng, Virginia's secretary of commerce and trade, answering questions about defective drywall, go to http://www.dailypress.com/drywall