Neighbors Want Something Done About "Toxic" House - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

04/14/04

Neighbors Want Something Done About "Toxic" House

A view through the window of the toxic house. A view through the window of the toxic house.

Imagine living next to a house the health department says is toxic, and the only thing living in it are rats and roaches. That's the problem in one Savannah neighborhood. The house on Colony Court has been vacant for ten years, and neighbor Jo Ann Sepela describes it as "a nightmare."

Mold, mildew, roaches, rats, possums, bats and roaches have been the only things living there for the past ten years. "The sheetrock is all down and you can see the mold growing up the walls," she Sepela said.

The mold not only smells bad, but has been deemed toxic by health specialist. In a letter written by the Chatham County health specialist listing the problems, one line reads, "this dwelling should not be entered without EPA-recommended person protection equipment due to probable health risks to individuals entering the dwelling."

They say it is not toxic when it hits the air.

You may be wondering why hasn't the City of Savannah done something about this. Officials say their hands are tied. Although they can't find the owner of the house, they did find the mortgage company. The mortgage is being paid and they say the building is structurally sound.

Sepela disagrees. "There's numerous holes in the roof line," she said.

And thinks the lack of response sends the wrong message. "So what I want to know is, anybody can own a property as long as you pay your mortgage and your taxes and there's nothing anyone can do?"

All the city can do right now is cite the owner and mow the lawn. City council meets tomorrow to talk about changing the laws when it comes to vacant houses. We'll let you know what happens.

Reported by: Kim Angelastro, kangelastro@wtoc.com

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