Expert Not Welcome as Lawyers and Homeowners Mediate Legal Action Over Island Construction with Treated Wood


As a gaggle of St. John homeowners watched a passel of lawyers sporting a haberdashery of brightly-colored ties in the Westin Resort reception room conduct a “mediation” of a lawsuit involving the relative merits of various types of lumber treated to withstand the environment and pests in the Caribbean, St. John termite and pest control business owner Todd Roskin was neither invited to attend nor allowed to address the session.

Roskin, proprietor of St. John Solutions Termite and Pest Control, wanted to lend his relatively-extensive expertise to what he thought would be a receptive audience attending the mediation session for the legal action by island homeowners and builders against builders, lumberyards and manufacturers over wood products that were susceptible to island pests and weather.

Unwanted Expert
But Roskin, as the leading — if not only — documented expert on the chemical treatment of lumber to withstand the tropical environment in the Virgin Islands, wasn’t invited, welcomed nor allowed to address the mediation session which had been booked into the large resort reception room for three days.

In fact, the organizers of the mediation session in the Westin Resort ballroom — or Westin employees — removed the “Consumer Alert!” flyers Roskin left outside the ballroom for public consumption.

So Roskin did the next best thing to handing out his flyer to interested parties in the years-long legal battle who acted disinterested in the facts of the current wood building product problems facing island residents and builders.

Roskin printed up enough to reach the entire circulation of Tradewinds and paid to have his information inserted in the newspaper’s circulation.

“I am trying to make sure that everyone is aware of… the pressure treated lumber situation in the Virgin Islands,” Roskin told Tradewinds.

Mediating “Wrong Issue”
The issue the lawyers ostensibly were mediating at the Westin Resort for three days was the wrong issue, according to Roskin.

“It’s actually camouflaging the real issue,” said Roskin, who is the only Caribbean member of the American Wood Protection Association, a 100-year old professional organization comprised mostly of manufacturers of wood building products. AWPA endorses a “Use Category System” for pressure treated lumber.

“In 2014 we are still being sold lumber that will quickly fail in our environment.” said Roskin, who can easily lapse into arcane technical jargon when discussing wood treatment.

“The rampant sale UC4A lumber in our UC4C environment has people sustaining severe damage to their lumber and personal injuries related to lumber failure after a 3-5 year service life,” Roskin explains.

Industry Experts Agree
“Pressure treated lumber is now designed for a specific environment,” Roskin continued. “The American Wood Protection Association sets standards for the treating processes. It also defines appropriate treatment and end use of that treated lumber. The Use Category System lays all this out.”

“We are being sold Use Category 4A Lumber for ground contact,” Roskin continued. “This is the lumber made for use in areas of low potential for wood decay and insect attack.”

“The Virgin Islands is an area of extremely high potential for wood decay,” Roskin wrote. “The Use Category System tells us to use UC4C lumber.”

“I advise anyone building to check your end tags and talk to your lumber dealer about what they have for sale,” added Raskin. “If it says UC4A it’s not made to be used in the Virgin Islands and it will not last.”

“On the user side of things — buyers, builders, designers, and government need to specify and/or require a minimum UC4C treatment,” Colin McCown of the American Wood Protection Association wrote Roskin in a recent e-mail.

“On the producer side — suppliers and manufacturers need to ensure that products going into that market are treated to UC4C requirements,” McCown added.

 “My guess, however, is that buyers want cheaper products and suppliers want market share – this combination means cost is more important than performance, so that’s where this is heading,” McCown wrote Roskin. “Do the building inspectors there check to see if UC4C material is used, or do they just check the box if it’s treated?

“I am trying to make sure that everyone is aware of… the pressure treated lumber situation in the Virgin Islands,” Roskin told Tradewinds.