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More tenants sue over chemical health hazard, lawmakers discuss change at state level

State lawmakers say they'd like to see the changes in the law after tenants at another Milwaukee-area apartment complex were recently evacuated over a chemical health hazard.
Posted at 6:35 PM, Aug 04, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-04 19:35:24-04

State lawmakers say they'd like to see the changes in the law after tenants at another Milwaukee-area apartment complex were recently evacuated over a chemical health hazard.

"I think we need a legal requirement that says before anybody can move into a site, there has to be proof that remediation was done and it's safe to live there. Why would anybody want to move into a place that they knew had health hazards," said State Sen. Kelda Roya, District 26.

Tenants of The Lydell, new luxury apartments at Bayshore in Glendale, filed a class action suit this week against developer Cypress Bayshore Residential, LP.

In the suit, residents claim the developer never told them about the issues before they signed their leases and downplayed concerns from the DNR and health officials.

The lawsuit also claims Cypress was advised in mid-June of this year not to accept any new tenants in Building 3 due to ongoing, elevated TCE levels. However, they allegedly "continued to place new tenants into Building 3" as late as July 3, 2023.

Trichloroethylene, or TCE, is a known carcinogen. It can present as a toxic vapor, which was detected at unsafe levels in Building 3, according to the suit.

Last month, North Shore Health Department evacuated people from six units in Building 3 where the chemical vapor exceeded health guidelines. In March, more than 100 people were evacuated from The Community Within the Corridor apartments over TCE exposure.

A class action suit against CWC developers alleges they ignored DNR testing recommendations and put profit over safety.

Sen. Roys said there's a discussion in Madison about changing the law. Right now, the DNR is only able to recommend testing and occupancy guidelines but not enforce them.

"It's sort of a take us at our-word situation. And that's not how public safety regulations work," said Sen. Roys.

State Sen. Chris Larson said the law should allow the DNR to preemptively test sites and provide the funding to do it.

"Republicans have about two-thirds of the votes in both houses. So there has to be Republican support for this to happen," said Sen. Larson.

A spokesperson for Cypress Bayshore Residential said they're unable to comment at this time as they review the allegations in the lawsuit.

In a previous statement, Chris Maguire, president of the general partner of Cypress Bayshore Residential, said they "recognized the issue is causing an inconvenience and worry to residents, and their top priority is to fix the concerns, keep tenants safe, and happy in their new home. It's with them in mind, they are working tirelessly to fix the situation."

That statement also said that based on testing at other buildings on site, they had "no reason to believe" the level of TCE would present at actionable levels in Building 3.

Cypress Bayshore Residential said it's now willing to offer anyone within the evacuated units in Building 3 the ability to relocate to another Lydell apartment, if available. If they decline, Cypress is offering tenants a $500 reimbursement to terminate their lease.

Lincoln Residential, the property management firm at the building, has since terminated its contract with the developers. They claim they were unaware of the TCE levels or testing requirements.

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