Dangerous state of military housing making service members sick across the U.S

Thursday, November 08, 2012 by: J. D. Heyes
Tags: military housing, soldiers, sickness

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(NaturalNews) The U.S. military is equipped with the finest, deadliest and most technologically advanced gear on the planet. Satellites from space can spot bad guys on the ground, while drones guided by pilots in remote locations 9,000 miles away direct missile fire towards the unsuspecting enemy.

The U.S. builds bombers and jet fighters that are nearly invisible to radar; warships and submarines that can avoid detection, and cyber warfare capabilities that can penetrate the toughest countermeasures.

But the Pentagon can't seem to provide something as simple as decent housing for tens of thousands of its soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.

Typical of this problem is the case of a Navy family in Norfolk, Va., who is suing the sub-contractor company that manages housing for thousands of service members and their families in Hampton Roads over an ongoing mold issue they say has contributed to a number of health problems.

The suit, according to local reports, seeks $3.7 million in damages and is the second mold-related suit directed against Lincoln Military Housing to reach federal court in Norfolk, which has historically been home to tens of thousands of Navy personnel.

Lincoln manages some 4,400 rental units in the region via a public-private partnership arrangement with local military bases. Five more cases against the company for the same problem are pending in state court.

A year of allergies

In the latest case, Petty Officer 2nd Class Angel Manual Chaparro-Mendoza and his wife, Natasha Chaparro, are alleging that their entire family got sick over a nearly two-year period during which time, heavy mold growth was discovered in their townhouse near the Norfolk Naval Station.

The family lodged numerous complaints with the company and was ultimately moved into temporary Navy housing while the mold was supposedly cleaned out of their home. They only recently were able to move back into it.

The company says the mold found in Chaparro's home was minimal and that it will "vigorously" defend itself in court. Lincoln reportedly has a long-term lease agreement with the Pentagon under a 1996 initiative to privatize, maintain and improve the military's aging housing units.

The company may have a hard time.

Consider: Within two weeks of moving into their townhouse with their two young sons in May 2012, the Chaparros said they had to deal with water leaks - first with a toilet and then the dishwasher. "In each case, they allege, it was a week or more before maintenance workers responded to their calls, by which time the leaks had caused discoloring and peeling of the linoleum floors," the Virginia-Pilot newspaper reported.

A little more than a year later, by August 2011, they allege, mold was growing visibly on the dining room ceiling and ceiling fan, in every air vent in the house and on the crib of their youngest child, two-year-old Gabriel. In short order, they say the entire family became ill and required a number of emergency room and doctor's office visits.

"It seemed like we had yearlong allergies, all of us," Natasha Chaparro told the paper. "It was just constant."

Before long, she said, Gabriel began having frightening seizures.

"It was like he was just staring off into space and you couldn't get his attention," she said, adding that the episodes would last three to four minutes.

Base commanders no help

Some 2,000 miles away, at Kirtland Air Force Base near Albuquerque, N.M., in an entirely different environment, a similar problem was occurring.

There, moldy conditions have struck at least two families, each of which has been unable to make any headway in getting the problem solved.

"We've gone to base - the commanders - and we're like, 'We need help. Help us,'" said Mychal Fraatz, whose husband is in the Air Force. "And, you know, it's out of their hands. They can't help us because it's private housing."

She says she and other families have repeatedly complained to the firm, Hunt Companies, based in El Paso, but nothing has been done.

"And then you go to privatized housing and they just are like, 'There's not an issue,'" Fraatz said. "All we ask for is a safe place for us to sleep at night just like everybody else wants."

She said previous water damage likely led to the moldy conditions.

Now she calls it "the house that got us sick."

'Significant mold contamination'

She says within a few months of moving in, she and her family took ill, but Hunt Companies said it couldn't find any mold problems.

But Assaigai Analytical Laboratories in Albuquerque, a private firm Fraatz and her husband hired, said they discovered "significant mold contamination" at the home.

"Quite frankly I've never seen (aspergillis/penicillum readings) this high," said Assaigai employee Bill Biava, who conducted the testing. "In this case, (overall mold readings in the house) were probably three times higher than what is considered for normal health."

Other bases and other housing units around the country have similar mold issues, other service members report.

It's an abomination to provide those who so willingly sacrifice to defend our country such chronically poor living conditions.





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