Months after high levels discovered, housing authority addresses radon issue with residents


Butler Terrace Addition

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - High levels of radon were reported in more than 60 homes at a low-income apartment complex. Our partners at The Huntsville Times and broke the story and found out the Huntsville Housing Authority kept the radon issue away from residents for months.

How did the radon get into the homes?

On Thursday, the Huntsville Housing Authority met with residents this morning to talk about options for residents at Butler Terrace Addition.

Residents found out earlier this week high levels of radioactive gas seeped through the cracks and into their homes.

"We determined since the units are built on a slab that there are cracks in the slab that may have occurred when plumbing was put in and different things where pipes would run," said Huntsville Housing Authority Real Estate Development Director Quisha Riche, "and through those cracks - that's where the radon is coming in."

'We had to live in it,' said a former resident

A current resident, who chose to remain anonymous, was asked how she feels about what's been going on, she said "How I feel? You know they could have told us something you know."

A former resident, Sylvia Thomas said she lived at the complex for 5 years and left in 2014.

"I think that was very, very wrong," said Thomas. "Wrong. They don't have to live in it. We had to live in it."

The Huntsville Housing Authority tested for radon last fall, after being alerted to a potential problem, by The Oregonian, who surveyed other public housing nationwide.

The housing authority 'always planned' to meet with residents

"We've always planned to meet with our residents and share this information with them," said Riche. "We just wanted to make sure that when we shared it with them we could tell them what it meant."

Riche said residents spoke with a radon expert at today's meeting.

"At the meetings today, residents have been given the specific results for their units," said Riche. "Our Director of Housing Operations has provided the residents with three options that they can take moving forward."

Keep in mind - these options are available only to residents whose units were tested for radon above the federal limit.

These are the options

Option 1 - residents can break their leases without any penalties and move out to a private residence.

Option 2 - residents can request a transfer to a different public housing community. The housing authority will test that unit before residents move

Option 3 - the housing authority may demolish the Butler Terrace Addition site. If that happens - residents would be given a housing choice voucher. Residents would get help with application and utility reconnection fees and moving costs.

"As is to be expected," said Riche, "residents are concerned about what this means for the health and safety of their families and that's understandable."

Riche said this is still in the discussion phase, and won't be finalized until residents decide what they want to do.

The Huntsville Housing Authority met with residents at the One Stop Shop next to the Butler Terrace Addition public housing complex. Later in the day, officials and a radon expert spoke to residents a second time to talk about their risks and options.

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