By Peter Cameron and Bill Wellock (Staff Writers)
A sister of a woman who asphyxiated in the basement of a West Pittston house last year has filed a lawsuit against the home’s developer.
Carol Mikols, formerly of Exeter, died Sept. 9 in the house of another sister, Ann Mikols. She was 62.
The civil lawsuit, filed by Mary Howells in the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County, alleges the developer, Susquehanna River Shores, LLC, was negligent in checking the ground for toxic gases from a landfill buried below and in preventing them from seeping into the basement.
Howells is seeking damages in excess of $300,000.
Frank Delaney, the developer and builder for Susquehanna River Shores, said the land was tested “extensively” by engineers, scientists and the Department of Environmental Protection before construction began, and 2 feet of topsoil were added to the ground. He owns a home and lives there as well, he said.
“I wouldn’t have bought the property or built the home if I thought there was any danger whatsoever,” he said Tuesday.
During the massive floods last year, heavy rains saturated the ground, forcing gases out of the ground, said Bruce Zero, the attorney representing Howells.
The oxygen in Mikols’s basement was displaced by the rising landfill gases, and when Carol Mikols went downstairs on Sept. 9, the lack of oxygen killed her, Zero said.
Neighbors found Carol Mikols and two cats dead in the basement of the home.
Delaney said all the homes built on the landfill by his company had air evacuation systems – pipes under the foundation designed to prevent gases from entering.
But residents needed to connect a motorized fan for the system to be effective.
“It’s up to the homeowner to connect those systems,” Delaney said. “Eventually everyone connected to those systems except for Ann Mikols.”
Zero said that should have been the developer’s responsibility.
“You don’t make a safety feature optional,” he said.