Whitney Residents Still Frustrated Over Chinese Drywall

Residents at the Whitney in downtown West Palm Beach aren't particularly happy to know that they're living in one of the only condo buildings in Florida to have a suspected problem with Chinese drywall, at least so far. Especially since that's about the sum total of what they've learned since one apartment owner found she had corroded pipes, a signature of the problem drywall, in her apartment.

A few residents have complained of headaches and allergy problems; others have demanded a full report from The Continental Group, which owns the building. But response from management has ranged from slow, to confused, to downright nonsensical.

One resident, who asked not to be named, said the company first tried a random sampling of apartments. "They went around to a couple of units on each floor with some machine that was supposed to be able to sense the presence of Chinese drywall," he told The Juice. When the results came back positive for 50 percent of the tested units, outraged residents demanded an explanation. "They told us that 'there might be people with more sensitive olfactory responses than the machine,'" the resident remembers.

Last month, Bovis Lend Lease, the Whitney's builder, hired Environ International to perform its own round of tests. This time they removed safety plates and outlet covers and took samples of drywall from every unit. On Wednesday of this week, residents received this email from property manager Paul Wilkis:

"The last round of inspections included all 210 units in the building and was concluded on July 30, 2009. Since that time the attorneys representing the Association, USO Norge Whitney, and Bovis have been working to resolve a statutory matter. Once that is done, I believe that we will begin to see some progress and possibly an indication of their plan for remediation."

When contacted, Wilkis advised The Juice that he is not authorized to comment to the media.

"There is no 'statutory matter,' our anonymous resident snorts. "There are no 'statutes' involved in this; the company owes residents full disclosure, and they've been stalling for months. Wilkis knows there's a problem, the company knows there's a problem, and they're legally bound to inform the people living here."

And presumably to inform buyers of those $450,000 units currently for sale?

Addendum: The Palm Beach Post reported yesterday that FAU is developing classes to teach workers and supervisors how to remove Chinese drywall, starting in October. No doubt Bovis employees are already scrambling to matriculate.

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