Monday, June 8, 2009

Yet another military housing debacle

Anecdotal, yes, but along the lines of the Laurelwood mess at NWS Earle, where our military again botches another housing contract and then hides behind rhetoric in a dangerous situation - in this instance about the welfare of enlisted personnel.

The Army, through an outside contractor of course, was in the process of building 110 homes at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, when in 2005 the contractor abruptly halted construction owing to a putrid smell that proved to be vast amounts of PCB, a highly toxic and dangerous chemical to humans. The site on which the housing complex (Taku Gardens) was quickly classified an EPA Superfund site, and roughly $15 million later, more than 3,000 cubic yards of PCB-contaminated soil, 1,000 tar and petroleum drums, and 300 tons of scrap metal reportedly has been extracted from the housing area. Diggers went down as far as 18 feet deep (!) to extract far down as the groundwater (can you say PCB in the water) in some spots, but promises to ease neighbors' worries "by designing raised beds for flowers." This clearly will make a soldier feel much better when his or her child is born with three heads and has a ready supply of PCB-laced water and toxic homegrown carrots from his/her Taku Gardens back yard...

The contracting agent's response to the Army's insistence on opening these sweet homes to its own soldiers, you ask...(?):

It's bad from an environmental standpoint, but it doesn't pose a health

PEER, which claims membership of 1,000 civilian federal employees dedicated to upholding environmental laws, puts the price tag for 110 Taku Gardens homes at $100 million to U.S. taxpayers, around the same price that Laurelwood is costing us at Earle (not counting what it will cost if the complex goes civilian). And remember, too, that Laurelwood was built on top of designated wetlands.

NOPE is not oblivious to the notion that military work can be dirty (environmentally) and dangerous, but maybe it's time for our federal and state leaders to start demanding more of our military leaders in terms of truly addressing the housing needs of its soldiers and being a much better neighbor to its host towns and cities. NOPE urges its supporters to contact their U.S. Senators and local elected officials to stand up and fight such issues.


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