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Family stages Hanover protest; Dispute over how to fix moldy home.

Byline: Lisa D. Welsh

WORCESTER - The Zinck family of Natick is homeless and yesterday came to Worcester to picket in front of the company they believe is responsible.

"I didn't want to be a number," Gary Zinck said. "We are people; this is our family. I want them to see that."

The five family members have been sleeping in a rented apartment and on air mattresses in the homes of friends and relatives since last summer, when water damage to their home from a leak in 2003 was found to have caused toxic mold growth.

Yesterday they stood with signs in front of Hanover Insurance Co. on Lincoln Street to bring attention to their situation.

Mr. Zinck said he has been a firefighter in Framingham for 23 years and the last time he was in Worcester was in 1999 when he helped in the Cold Storage warehouse fire rescue effort. This time, he said, he was here to save his family.

He was accompanied on the sidewalk by his wife, Andrea, who is a physical therapist, and their 14-year-old twins, Danielle and Nicholas. Another son, Robert, 16, was in school.

Michael Buckley, vice president of communications for Hanover, confirmed yesterday that there was water damage to the Zinck home caused by ice dams around a bay window and along gutters. An initial claim of $3,000 was paid by the insurance company for repairs to the roof.

No one checked behind the walls for moisture, however, until Mrs. Zinck became ill with internal tremors, confusion and restless leg syndrome, Mr. Zinck said. After her doctor examined the toxicity levels of the home to try to determine the cause of her medical problems, the family was told to move out immediately.

Last September, Hanover began paying for the family to stay in rental property while engineers, hygienists and remediators determined that the home could be repaired. In February, Hanover paid the family $127,000 to remediate or repair the mold damage.

The Zincks sent the check back, Mr. Zinck said, because they believe the only solution is to tear down the house and rebuild.

"No one will guarantee that the mold will be eliminated through remediation," Mr. Zinck said yesterday, adding that he believes the company has evicted him from his home. "They have waivers that they want me to sign because even the remediators will not guarantee that the mold will not return. I would never put my family back in this situation."

Mr. Buckley, who said the 167-year-old insurance company pays 200,000 claims a year totaling $1.5 billion, contended that Hanover has tried to bring the situation to a satisfactory conclusion. "On Feb. 12, we tried to advance the repair process and we told them that temporary housing would stop April 30," he said. "We feel this was a reasonable period of time to address the loss."

"Evicted is a harsh word," he added. "We have been paying for rental since October, but they want the house torn down and for us to pay for a new one."

As he stood on the sidewalk in front of the company's well-manicured lawns yesterday, Mr. Zinck wondered aloud how much the landscaping bill is and if the money could be better spent to help his family.

"We've been dealing with the proper channels, but that hasn't gotten us anywhere," he said. "They need to know how they are affecting five people."

ART: PHOTO

PHOTOG: T&G Staff/DAN GOULD

CUTLINE: From left, Gary, Danielle, Nick and Andrea Zinck of Natick protest yesterday outside Hanover Insurance Co. on Lincoln Street.
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:May 5, 2007
Words:600
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