Tony and Judy Turlenko were mortified when their condo tenant showed them that a radon test of the unit was positive.
Radon is naturally occurring gas that can cause cancer.
The Turlenkos were a bit perplexed their renters had taken it upon themselves to order the test, but they didn’t hesitate to put them up in a hotel.
According to Joseph Kidder, with the Radon and Indoor Air Program in the Florida Department of Health, one in five homes in Florida has elevated radon levels, based on tests going back 30 years.
The Turlenkos speculated that the fill for the building could have come from a phosphate mine elsewhere.
One of the few radon mitigation companies in Sarasota County, Radon Authority, found the unit in the South Preserve II of Waterside Village Condomiums, off Jacaranda Boulevard, was 21.1 pCi/L (picoCuries per liter), well over the 4.0 pCi/L level considered safe by the Environmental Protection Agency. Levels can get into the hundreds.
Turlenko sent the results to his homeowners association. The HOA hired a company to do its own testing and came up with similar results.
The Turlenkos learned it would cost around $3,100 to mitigate their unit. No problem. Glad to do it, they said.
“We tried to take care of this quickly,” said Tony Turlenko.
But Radon Authority would require them, per EPA rules, to inform their neighbors of the mitigation process. It also asked the Turlenkos to sign an “inadvertent collateral mitigation form” stating the company can’t be responsible for any environmental impacts on adjoining units.
“Collateral mitigation may intentionally or inadvertently extend influence to multiple areas within a shared building,” reads an addendum to the Turlenkos’ contract.
Mitigation requires pressurizing the unit by a fresh air fan through-wall ventilator, expelling the potential cancer-causing radon.
Opening the doors and windows is the immediate solution, but not a long-term one with Florida’s heat.
The Turlenkos contacted the Department of Health to learn more. Then they asked the HOA for permission to move forward with mitigation.
On Oct. 16, Debbie Green of Capri Property Management Inc, responded on behalf of the HOA stating she had consulted with the association’s attorney and insurance representative.
“It was determined that the radon levels exist within the unit boundaries, which is the owner’s responsibility,” Green wrote.
The association gave its approval to the exterior wall modification and agreed to expedite the matter — if the Turlenkos would sign an agreement making them liable for any radon infiltration into another condo due to the mitigation process.
The Turlenkos’ attorney said they’d be crazy to sign the agreement.
Tony Turlenko said he believes more condos already have elevated radon levels throughout the building, making it the HOA’s responsibility to mitigate.
There was a recent run on radon test kits at the Department of Health, he said.
Meanwhile, the Turlenkos decided after a few weeks of paying for the tenants’ hotel that they were in a bind. The cost for hotels could break them.
“This [the condo lease] my only other source of income other than Social Security,” said Tony Turlenko.
A year-long lease was recently signed.
They offered the renters a deal.
“We said they could break the lease and move elsewhere,” said Judy Turlenko.
The tenants, who declined to comment, have since moved back into the condo.
All three parties have hired lawyers.
“I got a phone call from the County Health Department,” Tony Turlenko said. “(They) said radon gas is the second-leading cause of lung cancer and that a reading of 22.1 is like smoking three packs of cigarettes a day. All I want to do is get this taken care of.”
He has since found three other unit owners concerned about the same issue. They’ve requested a meeting with HOA management and are hoping for a January date.