Saturday, October 10, 2009

The EPA needs to revisit chemical exposure at Earle

NOPE's efforts to get the EPA to withdraw the agency's implicit approval for civilian housing at Weapons Station Earle has essentially fallen on deaf ears. Our contention is that the Department of Navy purposely misled the EPA on its "purpose and need" for wanting to open the 300 Laurelwood homes (now used by 6-8 Navy dependents) on the base to civilians and build a 2-mile access road to the development, and that the best way to not disturb the environment or expose potential renters is to not house civilians at the base.

NOPE already knows that the new road will traverse wetlands and, in fact, be within 100 feet of an EPA Superfund site (NPL Site #1) that was used from the 1940s thru the 1970s to burn spent ammunition. Soil tests of this "capped" site show high levels of arsenic in the water, and we assume there are other chemicals in the soil severely harmful to people exposed.

Thursday, CNN issued a report of a preponderence of men raised at Camp Lejeune (North Carolina) Marine training base from the 1950s thru 1980s who have breast cancer, owing to exposure to hazardous materials and contaminated tap water. (Others with breast cancer were exposed to smoke from "burn pits" in Iraq. As far as we know, Earle continues to burn spent ammunition as part of its routine mission, and this will not change once civilians move into Laurelwood housing next September.)

Again, it will be interesting to see how the Department of Navy handles Laurelwood renters' exposure to extremely harmful chemicals over the course of 30 years, starting in September 2010, when we presume civilians will be living within the base's exterior fence line and driving thru active areas of the base, separated by a mere 7-foot-high fence. Stay tuned as we await a formal response from the EPA on whether it will go back to the drawing board at Earle.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Contract military guards asleep...literally. Do we want this at NWS Earle?

Once the Department of Navy opens Laurelwood housing to civilians by its intended deadline of September, 2010, the base commander (whether current Capt. Maynard or a successor) and his security team will be responsible for the ensuing 30 years for policing the new 2-mile road from Rt. 34 to the homes, in addition to enhancing security and bringing on additional staff to keep civilians out of the fully functional areas of a facility w/300 bunkers of bombs and ammo.

Currently, the Department of the Navy uses contract security guards to supplement the seemingly thin staff of Naval police who patrol the base and cover 2nd- and 3rd-shift duties. The company that provides this service is Myers Investigative & Security, apparently of Dunn, NC. (Myers' legacy website is no longer available, and as is the case with many private military contractors, it is often difficult to trace the whereabouts of executives or contacts with these service providers).

Anyway, the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Defense, in this report issued in January of 2009 at the request of Congressman Chris Smith, found that Weapons Station Earle failed to prove background checks on Myers guards working within its lines, nor did it maintain proper oversight of these (essentially) rent-a-cops.

This becomes all the more unsettling in light of this Associated Press story, citing a report from the Commission on Wartime Contracting, today that an Army sergeant at a U.S. military base in Kuwait not only found a contract security guard leaning back in a chair, apparently sound asleep while on duty, but that defense auditors also found at least $6 billion of questionable charges where contractors are bilking the military.

Now what does a contract security guard asleep on the job in Kuwait, plus the bilking of the DoD have to do with guards at Earle or NOPE? As U.S. taxpayers...EVERYTHING!

Even bluer in the face, NOPE continues to argue that the costs to the Department of Navy to enforce the civilian occupancy portion of an outdated private military housing contract will not only nullify the Navy's presumed savings (the Navy says it will cost too much to buy out the deal and needs to open Laurelwood to civilian renters), but introduce the base to all sorts of threats to the core mission of transporting and storing explosives. The last thing we in the NOPE community need, outside of the financial devastation to our towns, is for a contract guard at Earle to fall asleep on the job and for something bad to happen at the base.

Seriously, you cannot make this stuff up...

APP Promos Oct. 27 NOPE Rally

Submitted by our Communications Director, Diana Piotrowski, and picked up in the Oct. 5 edition. Again, anyone in the communities surrounding Weapons Station Earle should attend this rally on October 27, 2009 at 730pm at Colts Neck High School.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Who are the Navy's appraisers anyway?

A lack of funding is the alleged stumbling block to the Department of the Navy's reluctance to buy out the Laurelwood housing contract at Naval Weapons Station Earle and prevent turning a section of the 11,000-acre mainside military weapons storage base in Colts Neck into an all-access civilian housing complex through 2040 and a potential terror target.

For those new to our case, the Department of the Navy argues it would be prohibitively expensive to settle with Laurelwood Homes, LLC (its developer who built the homes for military personnel in the late-1980s) on a buyout - one of two remedies proposed by NOPE; the other is outright cancellation (i.e. void the deal, as some contract language would facilitate)...on the order of $110-$120 million. Laurelwood's attorney, meanwhile, admits to the media that this Navy estimate is grossly inflated, and that his client - Teri Fischer - would take far less.

NOPE estimates the value of the 300 Laurelwood homes at $17-$20 million, based on several factors (housing upgrade and road construction costs to Ms. Fischer, contractual teardown of the homes and replenishment of the land to its "original state" in September 2040, depreciation, local real estate market values, environmental remediation, etc.)

Anyway...based a) on the disparity in NOPE's figures vs. the Department of the Navy's (no one has refuted our estimates, namely the Navy...and we are merely a grassroots coalition of volunteer efforts, not appraisal experts as you would expect the Navy would have), and citing b) some financial details about halfway into this September 22, 2009 report from The Hill on a landgrab over the Navy's shuttered Treasure Island base near San Francisco, it is pretty clear that U.S. Navy appraisers may have zero clue about property appraisal.

How else could you explain the roughly $100 million disparity between our estimate and the Navy's over the value of the existing 300 Laurelwood homes on the base, as well as its apparent $220-$230 million overestimate of the value of Treasure Island versus appraisers for both the City of San Francisco as well as the respected, independent KPMG?

In our view, it is just another example of how there is the Department of Navy is being guided or advised by people with no business sense, and that unfortunately, in our case to prevent civilians from ever residing at NWS Earle, the residents of the Monmouth County communities surrounding NWS Earle are left in the crosshairs of crippling behind-the-scenes deal-making.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Oct. 27 NOPE RALLY coming together

Keep your eyes posted within the next week for NOPE lawn signs promoting our rally at Colts Neck High School on Tuesday, October 27, 2009.

We encourage any supporters who want to put one on their lawn or somewhere in their neighborhood to email us at njNOPE@gmailcom or, or to call Diana at 732.946.3474 or Bill at 732.544.8595. Otherwise, we are offering community service hours to any groups in need to those who can help us distribute flyers the weekends of Oct. 17 & 24.