Sep 012017
 

by Arnaud and Naja Girard…….

Constant allergies requiring weekly injections, repeated pneumonia, bloody noses, frequent severe headaches, skin rashes, swollen eyes and breathing issues are a few of the symptoms described by Sigsbee residents who responded to a survey conducted by The Blue Paper.

Following reports of “sick house” symptoms on Sigsbee island, we asked military families to describe any health-related issues they’ve experienced while living on the island.

Over 66% of those who responded reported having developed some form of allergy. Almost all say the symptoms disappear after moving off base. Some, however, believe they’ve suffered permanent injury to their health.

Forty families responded to our questionnaire. 

Six months ago, we responded to calls from Sigsbee residents claiming that the homes they were renting on base from Balfour Beatty Communities were making them sick. At the time, we documented moldy walls, soggy ceilings, and a strange goo that was oozing out of the flooring tiles. We came back with mold expert, Hugh Johnson, who conducted a survey of one of those homes. He found mold, water infiltration, and a suspect AC system.

The U.S. Navy responded, stating that Balfour Beatty had been working with residents to mitigate any mold issues and was continuing with a 28-homes per year renovation plan.

However, we have since circulated a questionnaire among residents. It reveals that many families continue to report persistent health issues that they believe are related to Sigsbee housing.

There appears to be a clear pattern in the results we obtained.

Within a year of moving into Sigsbee, a significant number of residents were experiencing symptoms associated with environmental allergies. Residents describe respiratory problems and a losing battle against mold creeping out of the walls. In most cases the problems miraculously disappear when the family leaves for a vacation, only to come back with a vengeance when they return home.

We asked for a description of symptoms, if any, for each family member.

Some respondents said they were fine, but here are some examples from the 66% who said they were not. [Full responses and analysis are available below.]

Respondent #10

  • Me-32…Yes, constant allergies and headaches.
  • Spouse-36…Yes, constant allergies and headache.
  • Stepdaughter-15…Yes, severe allergies requiring weekly immunotherapy injections. No issues prior to living there.
  • Stepson-14…Yes, constant allergies and headaches.
  • Daughter-13… Yes, allergies and headaches.

Respondent #34

  • Son 12 yrs, has allergies and frequently has headaches
  • Daughter 10, has had pneumonia twice since living here. Gets rashes and stomach pain. Also suffers from headaches and allergies.
  • Myself 38, has body aches, allergies, headaches often. Recently has had asthma attacks which I haven’t had since I was a teen. Also I get sores in my nose.
  • Husband is 34, had body aches and headaches along with allergies when he is home.

Respondent #1

  • rashes, headaches, bloody noses and now an autoimmune disease

On a Sigsbee housing Facebook page some former residents have reported life altering diagnoses.

“I was diagnosed with Lupus after living in Sigsbee housing and found out last night that another friend of my husband’s who was also stationed in kw and lived there has been diagnosed with ms. It is sad and something needs to be done.”

A former resident, Astrid Trotter, believes she contracted Multiple Sclerosis during her 3 year stay in Sigsbee housing.

“We all believe it is because of the conditions we lived in there in housing ( …) I was told by my doctor this is an environmental disease.”

“We have a reoccurring hole in our ceiling by our pantry door. It’s been “fixed” before to the point where we just stopped calling to have it fixed. We move out on Friday and I can’t wait to know what kind of conversation this will spark…😒 It drips too…” — Former Sigsbee resident, name withheld [Facebook page]

In our survey, mold and moisture are the most cited culprits.

Respondent #21

Mildew was sent to the lab, it came back as dangerous mold. Mold coming from walls. Was reported and then covered up during repairs, Soggy walls.

Respondent #37

Ceiling constantly peeling from moisture. Surfaces in bathroom around tub and toilets discolored looks like mold, sliding door, kitchen looks to be covered in mold.

Respondent #7 

Mold on kitchen walls, ceiling and inside cabinets. Dampness on ceiling in master bedroom, brown water leaking from ceiling vents, ceiling collapsed. Glue in kitchen floors continuously seeping through (even after being “repaired” 6 times by B.B.). Water leaking out of electrical outlets, spark fire in electrical panel.

We asked residents whether they’d reported the problems and whether they were satisfied with Balfour Beatty’s response. 

Respondent #7 

Base CO, Balfour Beatty. All complaints listed above. Bedroom ceiling was fixed, brown water still continued to leak out of vent, mold was painted over in kitchen, no moisture test done, spark burns in electric panel (spark mark on door) was just painted over, no repairs done. Tiles in kitchen were re-glued 6 times, each time with glue seeping up. Each “repair” was a cover up of the problem.

Respondent #9

Mold or “mildew” everywhere, they just paint

Residents claim the symptoms subside when they leave only to return when they come back.

Respondent #1

Went on leave for a month, after a week of being gone, was perfectly fine again. Returned home, and was sick again.

Respondent #9

…breathing treatments 2 times a day for last 6 months, hasn’t needed it since leaving.

There is an unequivocal distrust of Balfour Beatty.

Respondent #10

…aware that Balfour Beatty didn’t give a shit and the Navy has no frigging clue how to fix it. DOD needs to start holding these privatized housing companies accountable for the shitty living conditions these families face. They should be earning the BAH they take from these families… but they aren’t…they collect the money, avoid paying taxes on the property and still provide substandard living conditions. Unsatisfactory on all levels and the maintenance workers and local office workers for Balfour Beatty have to bare the discontent this causes the families.

This state of distrust might explain Balfour Beatty’s recent difficulty in keeping the Sigsbee housing occupied. The company just announced that, due to vacancies, 20 units on Sigsbee island will now be available to the general public. Twelve are available immediately, beginning September 1st.

According to one active-duty military spouse, speaking under condition of anonymity, about 20 active-duty military families have chosen to move into the Sigsbee Island RV park, since April, rather than applying for one of the available homes.

Respondent #40 

For the amount we are losing in BAH through Sigsbee Housing, I would expect better conditions and my concerns to be taken seriously. I do not feel as though Balfour Beatty is loyal to the residents of housing. Quite honestly I think Balfour Beatty is a complete rip off.

Respondent #12

Something needs to be done and soon. I have no idea where the money we pay monthly is going to but it’s not to the houses. We need all the help we can get to get this out and set right.

BELOW IS OUR VIDEO PUBLISHED LAST MARCH

Click here to see the Navy’s response to the above video.

Click here to view the full detailed questionnaire responses.  [The families who responded to our survey agreed to do so anonymously. The IP addresses associated with the individual respondents have been redacted from this report.] Large file.

Click here to see the graphic analysis of the survey.

 

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Arnaud and Naja Girard
Arnaud and Naja Girard, owners and editors of the new, digital, Key West the Newspaper (The Blue Paper) previously reported for the former Key West The Newspaper, Key West’s longest running independent weekly, published by Dennis Reeves Cooper, Ph.D., from January 1994 until November 2012. The Girards are perhaps best known for their discovery of and extensive research surrounding the US Navy’s 1951 claim of ownership of Wisteria Island but are also responsible for top investigative stories including breaking news coverage of the highly controversial in-custody-death of Charles Eimers on Thanksgiving Day 2013, the catastrophic police tasing of Matthew Shawn Murphy, and the property tax scandal involving Balfour Beatty to name a few. Arnaud and Naja have lived in Key West since 1986.
 September 1, 2017  Posted by at 12:44 am * Featured Story *, Naja and Arnaud Girard, News  Add comments

  16 Responses to “Survey: Military Families Report Alarming Health Issues in “Sick Houses” on Sigsbee Island”

  1. You two blue lightnings (Arnaud and Naja) just can’t stop striking the Establishment tree, can you? Oh will that poor splintered tree be happy to see the blue paper fold for want of reader financial support. Oh will that poor splintered tree by happy to see that.

    I saw under your most recent blue lightning African slave cemetery tree splitter, a regular blue paper reader said he and other blue paper readers don’t like sending money online.

    Well, golly gee whiz. How about putting into a letter. cash, a money order, a cashier’s check.

    Don’t trust the US regular mail? Send it registered or certified, return receipt requested.

    Or use FedEx or UPS.

    Or use a bank wire transfer or direct deposit.

    Or bring the cash by the blue paper office in a brown bag.

    I knew when you two blue lightnings broke this stink the first time, that it would be viewed as fake news.

    When I saw the Key West Citizen’s Balfour Batty spin-doctor article the other day, I wondered why the Citizen didn’t touch the fake mold and chemicals making people sick at Sigsbee wooly mammoth in plain view?

    Actually, I didn’t wonder.

    The city mayor and city commissioners are faking they want affordable housing. Sigsbee is affordable housing, $2,500 for a two bedroom.

    Navy personnel and Navy civilian contractors don’t want it.

    Wonder why?

    Navy personnel are given hefty live off base allowances, which exacerbates the city’s acute affordable housing crisis.

    BAAAAAAAD blue paper.

    This is the US Navy you done went after. That’s unpatriotic. You shudda minded your own f-ing civilian business and let this mf-ing dead dog lie.

    But if you had done that with Wisteria Island, by now it would be Sunset Key Deux.

    Somebody send a copy of this tree splitter to President Trump. Invite him to send his children down here to live a year on their Uncle Sam’s dime as Sigsbee, kinda rhymes with Tuskegee, guinea pigs.

    • Sloan, there are paper trails with most of what you suggested. For reasons an ex lawyer should know. My idea is to make it simple for tourists to donate. When we visit KW we pay cash for everything but our bed and breakfast and also tip with cash. Will get with Naja on a way to get this done. Perhaps a printable deposit slip. Word of caution on allowing anyone to deposit checks as that could backfire.
      Do we trust the mail LOL

      As to this mold issue it seems that it is very real.
      What some do not understand is military people that end up with a serious health issue do cost tax payers and if it results in a disability could easily cost more than a house.

      Now if I understand this correctly BB owns the houses so this is not a government attack but simply going after the property owners. If BB is paid directly from government it does create a problem that could be quickly handled by a non military tenant. Renters normally could refuse to pay the owner rent and get a trial if house not fixed. The rent gets paid to the clerk of courts till resolved in court. But that often results in the landlord ordering them to leave so repairs can be made.

      Yes, send a letter to Trump, just maybe he will help..

      Sadly the units were not properly repaired after Wilma but fact remains is the mold issue and repairs are the problem of the owner not past owner unless proof can be shown it was hidden and known but not disclosed.

      Yes , Naja does go after facts and steps on a lot of toes. Perfect person to be mayor .

  2. inneffectual mitigation does not surprise me. I worked in a Federal building in Reston, VA, and developed severe headaches during the day. They would go away after I left the building – at first. It took longer and longer for them to go away. There was also black stuff around one vent in the office complex. We had a health unit onsite, and I as well as many others made repeated trips complaining about the conditions. Every person in that health unit was transferred out because they knew something was wrong and were documenting it all. After a couple of years, investigators were brought in. They discovered that the building had been subdivided into more offices but the ventilation system wasn’t reworked to accommodate those offices, and the carbon dioxite level increased as the day progressed. The black stuff was mold. As well, formaldehyde was rampant throughout the building because of carpets being changed. People who transferred in from California developed asthma after working in the building only a few months! The Federal government works at a snail’s pace, if at all, and people responsible for contracts often have no experience with proper mitigation procedures. It’s a joke.

  3. This is not the Federal Government , it’s a private owner of our former national resources, , only concerned about its profit . And how that happened is really skanky. In case you forgot…

    • Zobop, if the Navy built this housing on its own land, then the Navy remains responsible for any health hazards inherent in the construction and any toxic wastes the Navy put into the land. Balfour Beatty became responsible, too, when it acquired the Navy housing.

      There was toxic waste in a good bit of the Truman Waterfront land the Navy gave to the city. Ron Demes, the Navy’s civilian liaison with the local governments, told me at a Key West city commission meeting that, the Navy had cleaned up the land on the side of the left side of the road (nearest to Fort Zachary Taylor State Park), and residential (affordable) housing could be build on that land, but for that to happen on the land across the road, that land would have to be cleaned up by the city.

      I have heard there still is toxic chemical waste under some of the land in Truman Annex, and people living in residences over that land have health troubles. There was a public meeting at the NOAA auditorium a number of years ago, where this was hotly discussed. One woman arguing Truman Annex sat on top of toxic wastes, cleaned houses in Truman Annex. She told of clients moving away because they were getting sick.

      That’s a little far afield from Sigsbee, geographically, but not in the sense any land the Navy used in and near Key West could have been used to receive and store old ammunition and other toxic chemicals, metals, etc .in the case of Sigsbee, it does appear there is a serious problem there. I would not live there knowing what the blue paper has reported. I would not want anyone I care about living there.

      • If your that worried then take a serious look at where the drains go on Duval street. Yep , straight into the ocean. That likely is illegal but not something that could be fixed. So all the drinks spilled or thrown up go into it along with food and even oil from old cars. When installed likely were legal so now grandfathered in.

        Very likely many more grave sites under many buildings and roads in KW

        The key issue here is who now owns the buildings. Part of buying any property in FL. is you buy it as is along with any code violations.
        Seller is required to disclose any known issues. Good luck going after the navy. At best they might have to buy it back for the amount it was sold for. And if you try to cover mold with paint you could get a serious fine. I think BB had best get started right now or face the dealing with code officers that could shut them down. Then profits really go down fast.

        You do have the choice to move out of a mold house.

        As far as attacking the government that is not illegal. You can even attack Trump but I don’t suggest it unless you want investigated.

        • Where’d you go to law school, JiminKeyWest?

          What’s Duval Street and graves have to do with the Navy toxic land?

          I beat up on the wannabe king but only president most days at my website, and Hillary and President Obama not spared either. Nor the right wing, nor the left wing. Nor weenies and whores (in the selling your soul sense).

          It’s a big bad world out here, full of lions, tigers and bears, and far worse, if you see and hear like I do.

          This thing at Sigsbee is not going away. There are too many “anecdotal” reports for it to be the figment of imaginations.

          You are right. The people living there can move, and that’s what they should do. The ones who got sick can get lawyers to sue the Navy and Balfour Beatty. The KW city commission needs to stop promoting Sigsbee as “affordable housing”, until the toxic waste is resolved.

          Meanwhile, the blue paper is prosecuting those two mega defendants, the US Navy and Balfour Beatty, in the court of public opinion and God’s Court, which is what investigative journalists are supposed to do.

          All the while a regular blue paper reader yourself, how much US greenbacks have you given the blue paper to thank it for all the hard work and risk-taking it does?

          How much risk-taking do you do?

          What is your real name?

          • Sloan, I never once claimed to be a lawyer but do know a lot about laws. .We bought our first house when my wife was 17. I very much so do know about property laws as we have bought, and sold many homes in the last 41 years. And we are far from homeless. Perhaps a better question is why is a one time lawyer now homeless ?

            For reasons you should know we do not want our full name published. And we do not know yours.

            Will meet up with Naja in Oct as we will be there for 10 days.

            As to the connections of the issues they all are health issues and respect for the dead. And actually them graves created a health issue but effects are like gone by now.

            With a little pressure Naja could get the houses owned by BB condemned .

            Likely the buildings where never built to normal codes or even inspected. When mold is coming up from a concrete floor this indicates a moisture barrier was not used before concrete was poured. Just maybe the navy did know what it sold. Bottom line is they should be shut down till fixed if they even can be fixed.

  4. People are calling The Blue Paper and its reporters unpatriotic for going after the Navy for this unacceptable living conditions. Where is the Navy’s patriotism in letting their sailors, wives, children live in this filth? Where is their patriotism when we cry out for help because we are so damned sick and loaded with allergy meds, inhalers, nasal sprays, breathing treatments etc just to live in out homes? I watch my husband for 19 years dutifully serve his country, which is his passion. I watch him cry for the things he has seen at war. I can go on and on but hey can he get some fellow patriotism in return and get a healthy house to live in? This is only the mold you see! That’s the scary part in those walls hold a nightmare! I applaud all the efforts by anyone willing to get this word out! The Navy wants to pat itself on tube back for “renovating” a few houses a year? In the meantime families have to still suffer for years? The commander needs to get angry about this. If he is not, that speaks volume for his patriotism. In his defense, he isn’t the first to let it slide and unfortunately he won’t be the last. This has been ongoing since 2006/7 and each one does the bare minimum to get through their tour here. Stand up for your sailors the way the officers demanded in 2009! Tore down all of Trumbo and built them healthy homes. Where is the justice for enlisted? Where? #thebluepaper

    • If you are living in one of the mold houses you can do something fast. Call the health department and the building compliance department. As you are the renter you can grant them the ok to enter and inspect.
      Warning, they can and should shut it down and put a sticker on door ” condemned”
      Bad part is you might not have a place to go and no telling what they would do to get even. I do know ways to get action as was a builder.

  5. Every renter in the Keys probably has similar experiences. There are certainly more rental units inold town that should be condemned than are in full code and health compliance. Most old town conch rental houses are on the cusp of being sold and converted to vacation homes or transient rentals. Most old town conch rental houses are fire hazards, but rewiring the house would cost so much that it would never be recovered unless the rents were doubled. Most old town conch rental houses have leaking roofs, but the cost would never be recovered unless the rents were tripled. Most old town conch rental houses are rotted, but rebuilding the floors and strengthening the foundations would would cost so much that it would never be recovered unless the rents were quadrupled. Renters know these facts, and that’s why they know better than to complain. Renters know that if they push their owners for legal improvements, then they’ll soon be on the street and their rental apartment will be sold.

    Just look around. Every week, at least a dozen old homes are sold. They usually sell in excess of $750k each. Almost every one of those is going to a new absentee owner who will invest at least another $500k for a full gut, new interior and a pool. How can anyone expect to rent a home on a working salary from someone put over a million into acquiring it? That’s why the not to distant future will see even more of a housing crisis as these new Key West homeowners will forego the few thousand dollars in rental income and keep their million dollar investment intact.

  6. Is this your point?: “Renters know these facts, and that’s why they know better than to complain. Renters know that if they push their owners for legal improvements, then they’ll soon be on the street and their rental apartment will be sold.”

    You would have us substitute “military families” for “renters” and tell them they should know better?

    Well, here’s something to think about:
    Military families are ORDERED to come live here. Many of these families have 4,5, even 6 children. They have toddlers crawling around on a floor that is oozing with a mixture of saltwater and glue and who knows what else. They are having to bring their children to doctors to be put on breathing machines. Entire families are drugged up with allergy medication making their lives miserable – always sick, always tired, persistent migraines. Did you read the survey responses? These families with 3,4,5,6 children can not possibly find housing they can afford in this area with the money our government pays them – and they get a pretty nice sized housing allowance. They stay in those houses because they have no choice and they complain because they are worried about their health and the health of their children.

    Balfour Beatty wrapped itself in a flag and did whatever it took to make sure they didn’t have to pay property taxes like the rest of us and the reason they gave was — how dare we even ask — did we want to take money away from these families? – families who are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom? Shame on us. Yet here we have these families living in what they say are very unhealthy conditions? Really? These families have been crying out for help from their Navy fathers for years. The Navy contracted with Balfour Beatty to make sure our military families would not live in substandard housing any longer. This is not just any family in old town. Why has no comprehensive survey been done by our Navy?

  7. First off as tourist we usually visit KW about 6 times a year for 5 to 7 days and only stay in downtown bed and breakfast. Have never seen even one with problems like this.

    As to rewiring I can tell you that as a retired electrician that they are not that hard or costly. Have rewired dozens of 1920’s homes and enjoyed the challenge. One good electrician and a helper can rewire a 1,00.0 sq ft house in 5 days easy.
    Might cost 10 to 20 k that hardly is too costly for a house worth 500 k or more.

    Either fix them or rebuild. .Yes do agree the profit is far to low to be a landlord and is why we did not buy one we looked at 6 years ago.

    In time KW will see the results of no workers.

  8. My comments have nothing to do with Navy housing. Did you even read my comments? Are the units on Sigsbee being sold every week? Nevertheless, it does have to do with the impact that military personnel have on all the rest of us who live in privately owned non-military housing.

    The main reason military personnel live off base isn’t because the local apartments are healthier, it’s because they can make money living off base. Here’s an interesting point about military benefits in Key West: Someone who is right out of boot camp (E-1) and earning a base monthly salary of $1599.90 of will receive a (tax free) housing allowance of $2022.00 if they are single and $2553.00 if they have dependents (source is the official DOD website http://www.defensetravel.dod.mil/pdcgi/bah/bahsrch.cgi). That’s not bad. Someone who essentially has no skills other than the most basic of their military career and lives off base will take home nearly $40,000 in Key West. That doesn’t include the military’s medical, retirement, education, vacation (30 days per year) and other add on benefits. In the case of that person, the benefits will far exceed 135% of their base salary.

    That government housing subsidy essentially sets the base that will be charged for a Key West studio or one bedroom. There is no risk for the landlord since the rent check is guaranteed to clear. That’s what the average working Key West worker is up against.

    • Point well taken . Your comments have nothing to do with the story or the predicament these particular families are facing.

      • But at $1500 you can’t find much. Still does not mean the landlord can rent a house with mold. Use force to shut them down and they will fix them. Just accept them and the slum lord will not spend a dime.