WRDW: Fort Gordon Housing Problems Still Getting Worse, Families Tell Ossoff
This article features whistleblower clients Erin Greer, Ashley Porras, and Joy Viera, and was originally published here.
WASHINGTON (WRDW/WAGT) – Sen. Jon Ossoff continues to hear horror stories about the maintenance of family housing at Fort Gordon, with one mom telling of “poop falling from the ceiling.”
Fort Gordon families were in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday for an oversight session with Ossoff, D-Ga., and top Army leaders that started shortly after 9 a.m.
Many families say they suffer long-term health problems from toxic mold and other issues with the housing.
As the session started Tuesday morning, Ossoff said one of the family members testifying had received a call the night before from someone in a leadership position asking about the planned testimony and pressing for answers on whether the family member would speak about that person and their staff.
Ossoff condemned the contact with the family member, saying people must be able to speak freely about the problems without fear of retribution.
Our Meredith Anderson has been uncovering unsafe housing conditions on post for more than a decade. She was in Washington for the session, too.
Almost one year ago, Ossoff and his Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations released the results of an eight-month investigation into military housing that culminated in a hearing on Capitol Hill.
At the center of the controversy is Balfour Beatty, the company that manages privatized family housing at Fort Gordon and several other military installations.
In opening Tuesday’s session, Ossoff said he has “heard over and over again the anger and frustration” about “substandard housing conditions on post.”
So he continues to try to tackle the problem.
He said his team has spent the past several months pursuing a follow-up investigation.
He said his staff has conducted dozen of interviews and pored over thousands of pages of documents to scrutinize the practices of Balfour Beatty at Fort Gordon.
He noted that Balfour Beatty has said it hired more maintenance staff at Fort Gordon and worked to improve the housing there.
However, Ossoff said the company continues to struggle to ensure the technical quality of work there and to remediate mold in post housing.
It also has problems ensuring the accuracy and integrity of work orders, Ossoff said, adding that the company must prepare for the long term to sustain family housing at Fort Gordon
Ossoff said Balfour Beatty was invited to send company officials to answer questions at the session, but they declined.
He noted that company officials did meet with his staff, but he said their unwillingness to answer questions in a public setting calls into question their commitment.
Testifying Tuesday were family members who told of living on the porch, in their cars and at hotels out of fear for their health amid moldy conditions in their homes on post.
Among those family members was Erin Greer, who said her family has lived in Fort Gordon housing for several years.
She said there has been a persistent problem with moisture and mold, and Balfour maintenance staff members have been unable to find the source or fully fix the problem.
She said instead of the situation getting better with Balfour in the past year, it’s gotten worse.
The problems have continued as recently as this month, she said.
She told of a partially collapsed ceiling, mold on the utility closet door and around the entrance to the home.
She said the family brought in an independent mold expert to test the property, and the results raised health concerns.
She said on Oct. 7, the family moved into a hotel out of fear for their health. Balfour made the arrangements, she said.
She said Balfour brought in its own mold inspectors and claimed to make the necessary repairs.
The family moved back in on Oct. 17 to find black mold on the carpet.
It’s still there, Greer said.
She said Balfour wouldn’t refund the family’s rent money or let them out of their lease.
Just this month, she said she filed an emergency work order April 6 because of sewage flooding from a toilet in a bathroom.
Balfour didn’t completely repair the bathroom, she said, and “the bathroom floor and outside of the bathroom are still covered in liquid sewage.”
She said the family suffers health problems including chronic fatigue, body aches and memory loss, among other symptoms. She said she believes their two dogs died well before their time.
The family blames toxic mold in the home.
She said her health problems in April have been “much worse” than other problems in the past.
“I am very hopeful for a change for the better,” she said.
Also testifying was Joy Viera, who said the housing problems are affecting morale.
But if they can’t trust that housing, they worry about their families, so when they are deployed, they can’t focus on the mission, which is dangerous, she said.
She told of sewage problems at her house, as well.
“All of the sudden, we have liquid poop … falling from the ceiling into our kitchen, with our groceries that we had just bought,” she said.
This all happened after the family had spent weeks moving across the country and staying in hotels only to arrive at Fort Gordon and find that no housing was available.
Finally, a home was available and they moved in only to be greeted within hours by sewage flowing from the ceiling. Next the sewage backed up into bathtubs, Viera said.
“It was a nightmare,” she said, adding that the family learned Balfour had known about the plumbing issue before they moved in.