DANVERS — Barry Zeltzer can't forget the Danversport explosion. He is still paying for it.
Zeltzer is executive director of the New England Homes for the Deaf, where 84 deaf residents | some who are also blind and frail elders | had to be evacuated from the Water Street location the night of the blast. The residents and staff were displaced for two months while the facilities were repaired. Meanwhile, the Homes for the Deaf paid to rent space in a Beverly nursing home.
The blast caused as much as $1.4 million in damage and relocation costs to the Homes for the Deaf, and Zeltzer said they're still grappling with insurance claims.
"Our residents are back to normal, but we're still returning to normal," Zeltzer said. "It's been a long ordeal."
Officials estimate the total cost of the Danversport explosion | to residents, businesses and agencies like the Homes for the Deaf | tops $20 million, although it's hard to pin down a final figure yet.
"We estimate $10 million in residential repairs are being done or in the process of being done. And I think that may be a conservative estimate," said state Rep. Ted Speliotis (D-Danvers), whose office sent out 200 surveys to Danversport households to gather information.
On top of that, the explosion and its aftermath cost the town $1.6 million, which will be covered by the state. The state is also trying to bill CAI Inc. for the $312,000 in costs associated with responding to the blast and cleaning up the release of hazardous materials.
So far, seven lawsuits have been filed against CAI Inc. and Arnel Co., the two businesses sharing the building where the blast occurred.
Last week, the insurer for Kimball Memorials, Pioneer Garage and the owner of the land where the Danversport Bakery stood filed a suit in Salem Superior Court seeking damages of at least $682,000. A class action lawsuit on behalf of boat owners whose vessels were destroyed has also been filed.
Three insurance companies have filed suit to recoup payments -- roughly $2 million so far -- that insurers have made to business and property owners to repair damage from the explosion.
"I was very shocked by how well insurance worked out. That might not be fair, but you heard a lot of horror stories," said John Lynch, whose severely damaged home at 12 Bates St. had to be torn down and rebuilt. His insurance covered the costs.
While many houses have been rebuilt, some residents are still in limbo.
"As bizarre as it sounds," resident Kelly Lord said, "the lucky ones are the ones who had their homes condemned."
For Janet and Mark Lettich, insurance agreed to repair their home, but not rebuild it.
"It was so badly damaged," Janet Lettich said, "we didn't want to go through that."
So, like many other residents, the Lettiches have relied on a combination of insurance claim money along with bank loans and Small Business Administration disaster loans to make up the difference. They rebuilt their home on Riverside Street and moved in recently.
At the New England Homes for the Deaf, which is a nonprofit agency that houses 84 residents in independent-living apartments, a rest home and a skilled nursing facility, Zeltzer said he is eager for a conclusion.
"It's taken too long," he said, "but my staff and the residents are absolutely amazing people. Without them, none of this would have resulted in success. The community has been astounding | that's what we have to be thankful for."