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Drinking water suit

(AP) -- Environmental groups have filed a lawsuit against the California Department of Public Health for failing to establish a safe drinking water standard for the cancer-causing chemical made famous in the film “Erin Brockovich.”

The Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Working Group filed the lawsuit on Tuesday, claiming the department is eight years late in setting the hexavalent chromium standard and has made no progress toward the goal.

The Legislature directed public health agencies to set the standard by 2004.

Officials say the delay was caused by a scientific dispute over whether hexavalent chromium is carcinogenic when ingested in water. Federal scientists eventually confirmed that it is.

Water quality testing by state officials shows thousands of drinking water sources throughout California are contaminated with the chemical at unsafe levels.



Colorado foreclosures

(AP) -- Foreclosure filings were up in Colorado last month, but foreclosure auction sales fell to a six-year low.

According to a report released Tuesday by the Colorado Division of Housing, foreclosure filings in Colorado's metropolitan counties were up 14 percent last month to nearly 2,000, compared to just over 1,700 in July of last year.

Foreclosure auction sales were down 24 percent.

Foreclosure filings are the initial filings that begin the process. Foreclosure auction sales are held once the process has been completed.



Streetlight bill

SHIRE, Conn. (AP) -- Connecticut Light & Power (PNK: CNLTL) has reimbursed a woman almost $10,500 after acknowledging it billed her for 25 years for the electricity used to power streetlights near her home.

Grace Edwards told the Hartford Courant she discovered the billing error after a prospective buyer for the house in Cheshire asked for a history of utility charges.

The bills included line items for “9500 Lumen HP Sodium” and “6300 Lumen HP Sodium” -- two sodium vapor streetlights.

When she inquired about those charges, Connecticut Light & Power said a developer who previously owned the home had agreed to pay for the streetlights.

The company removed the charges from her bill but initially refused to reimburse Edwards for past charges.

She said they relented when the state's Office of Consumer Counsel got involved.

CL&P spokesman Mitch Gross said the company has acknowledged that the service was below the company's standard and has apologized to her for the error and the inconvenience.

“We have reimbursed her in the amount that she was incorrectly billed plus interest and will be using this case as a learning experience to identify process and customer service improvements to be sure this doesn't happen again in the future,” Gross said.

The company cut Edwards a check for $10,491.21, which is about $35 for each month she was overbilled. The company said the actual overcharges were about $5,800, which is about $19 a month.



Home Depot prospects

(AP) -- The Home Depot Inc. is feeling more upbeat about its prospects after healthy sales and cost-cutting built up its second-quarter profit.

The world's biggest home-improvement retailer said Tuesday that better sales in the U.S. and demand for its mainstay home improvement products helped lift its net income by 12 percent during the period.

Revenue at stores open at least a year rose 2.1 percent. For U.S. stores, the figure rose 2.6 percent.

Home improvement companies have managed to keep customers coming to their stores in part because of the slow-to-recover housing market. Homeowners who have been hesitant to sell while home prices remain deflated have instead focused on smaller, do-it-yourself projects.

Now that the housing market is starting to recover slightly, home prices are climbing somewhat and construction is on the rise. This will help companies like Home Depot (NYSE: HD) as contractors head in for supplies.

Confidence in the housing market also may mean homeowners will be willing to spend more on home-improvement projects, such as redoing a kitchen or bathroom.



Archdiocese auction

(AP) -- The Archdiocese of Philadelphia will auction off a sprawling beachfront villa in New Jersey and sell other properties to help close a budget deficit that officials say currently stands at $6 million.

The 11-bedroom vacation house in Ventnor, near Atlantic City, is set for auction on Sept. 15.

Villa St. Joseph spans an entire beach block and is assessed at about $6.3 million.

It's been a retreat for priests for half a century, but the taxes alone are now almost $115,000 a year.

The Philadelphia archdiocese is also selling the archbishop's private residence, a downtown office building, a former seminary and other assets to address the deficit.

Archbishop Charles Chaput put the deficit at $17 million. “We just can't afford to maintain and hold assets like Villa Saint Joseph by the Sea and my residence,” he said Monday. Legal fees alone have cost the archdiocese more than $10 million in the past two fiscal years.



Canadian home market

(Bloomberg) -- Canada's market for new and existing homes will moderate over the rest of the year and into 2013, Canada Mortgage & Housing Corp. (CMHC) said.

The country will see 207,200 housing starts this year, compared with a forecast of 202,700 in June and slower than the pace recorded in the past five months, the government housing agency said Tuesday.

Housing starts will be 193,100 next year, compared with its forecast of 195,700 in June, it said.

The agency cut its forecast for the national average price of homes to C$368,000 ($364,624) this year, from a projection of C$372,700 in June.

The average price will reach C$377,300 in 2013, down from a forecast of C$383,600 in June, CMHC said.

Sales of existing homes will reach 466,600 units this year, compared with a forecast of 472,300 in June. Existing home sales will be 469,600 in 2013, CMHC said.

It had forecast in June that existing home sales would reach 474,900 next year.



UK homebuilders

(Bloomberg) -- U.K. homebuilders gained after the Financial Times reported that the British government is planning to stimulate construction by underwriting bonds issued by non-profit developers.

The plan will lower financing costs for non-profit developers, known as housing associations, by guaranteeing debts, the FT reported Tuesday, without saying where it got the information.

Under the plan, housing associations and private developers would agree to work together on larger housing projects, the FT said.

The proposal would also loosen regulations for publicly traded homebuilders to include social housing in their developments, according to the report.



Manufacturing halt

(Bloomberg) -- Renewable Energy Corp. ASA, a Norwegian solar company, will stop funding and file for insolvency for its only manufacturing unit in the country after halting production of silicon wafers there.

REC Wafer Norway AS's liabilities exceeded its assets by about 1.2 billion kroner ($203 million) at the end of July, making a solvent winding-up of the unit dependent on more money from REC, the Sandvika, Norway-based group said Tuesday.

REC is suffering with the strength of the krone along with a slump in prices for the raw material used in solar cells.

The bankruptcy of REC Wafer Norway won't affect REC’s solar and silicon units, it said.

The company will continue manufacture polysilicon in the United States, where it is able to produce at a lower cost than competitors. It also makes solar modules in Singapore.



Danish borrowers

(Bloomberg) -- Danish homeowners are set to join their government in getting paid to borrow as investors drawn to the country's AAA rating search for the best returns in a market where the safest debt offers negative yields.

Mortgage yields, which correspond to the rates borrowers pay, have fallen to record lows since the central bank last month cut its deposit rate below zero to counter a capital influx and defend the krone's peg to the euro.

Refinancing auctions starting this month for mortgage bonds with maturities up to five years may send yields negative for the first time, said Jan Stoerup Nielsen, senior analyst at Nordea Bank AB in Copenhagen.

Denmark's $464 billion mortgage bond market, the world’s third largest after its counterparts in the United States and Germany, may become the next debt class that has investors paying to lend.



Land sale invalid

(Bloomberg) -- Chinese Estates Holdings Ltd., controlled by Hong Kong billionaire Joseph Lau, said Macau's chief executive declared a land sale to the company invalid, affecting HK$3.8 billion ($490 million) of home sales.

The unit, Moon Ocean Ltd., can object to the cancellation within 15 days of the decision's publication in the Chinese city’s government gazette and can also appeal to the courts, Chinese Estates said.

Lau will go on trial in Macau starting Sept. 17 on charges of bribery and money laundering.

Chinese Estates has collected HK$384 million of deposits on HK$3.8 billion of contracted apartment sales made for the La Scala project being built on the site, according to a filing in June.

The company said then that the city government had revised the land concession for the development in March 2011 with knowledge of the investigation of the land transfer.

Lau controls almost 75 percent of shares of the HK$17.7 billion Hong Kong-based developer.

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