A New Mexico disabled veteran recently learned a valuable …
A New Mexico disabled veteran recently learned a valuable …
The state Environment Department has issued a notice of …
The city’s schedule of chalking lines on Albuquerque softball …
A 59-year-old Rio Rancho resident who admitted she …
A deal to finish a courthouse that has already cost taxpayers …
Updated: Thursday, 01 Nov 2012, 10:54 AM MDT
Published : Thursday, 01 Nov 2012, 10:54 AM MDT
KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE (KRQE) - Moldy housing at Kirtland Air Force Base has allegedly sickened at least two families, and their efforts to get help for the problem have hit one dead end after another.
“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.”
The families have repeatedly complained to the private company that manages the homes at Kirtland, but that hasn’t worked either.
“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.”
Fraatz, her husband, Brian, and their three kids moved into the house in question in February 2011. At first, they were excited.
“From the outside it was gorgeous,” Fraatz said. “It had the ivy growing up.”
But previous water damage – probably from pipes that burst during New Mexico’s deep freeze in February 2011 – left the house infested with mold. Now Fraatz calls it “the house that got us sick.”
“I would say within two-to-three months, we started to notice we weren’t feeling well,” she said.
Fraatz complained to Hunt Companies – the El Paso-based company that manages housing at Kirtland and many other U.S. military bases – but said she felt ignored. A July 31 letter from the company said, “Multiple inspections of the home have not identified any water intrusion or mold-related problems.”
Fraatz and her family didn’t believe that diagnosis, so they paid for an independent inspection out of their own pockets. Assaigai Analytical Laboratories in Albuquerque later found “significant mold contamination” at the home, according to the lab’s report.
In fact, the lab found more than three million spores of aspergillis/penicillum mold in one wall of the master bedroom, as well as other types of mold in other rooms, said Bill Biava, who works at Assaigai and conducted the testing.
“Quite frankly I’ve never seen (aspergillis/penicillum readings) this high,” Biava said. “In this case, (overall mold readings in the house) were probably three times higher than what is considered for normal health.”
Biava also tested another home at Kirtland, where another couple and their three kids were living. “Ariel,” the woman living in the home, requested anonymity.
“My kids were getting sick – like sick, sick,” Ariel said.
Biava’s tests also found “significant mold contamination” in that home, he said.
“That sampling confirmed the presence of stachybotrys, which is the black mold that everybody gets concerned about,” Biava said.
And not only that, but Biava said he found evidence that Kirtland Family Housing – the local Hunt affiliate in charge of the homes – may have tried to cover up the mold – literally. Ariel showed News 13 that alleged evidence when she lifted up a piece of plywood lining the bottom of the cabinet under her sink, revealing black mold.
Ariel said Kirtland Family Housing has repeatedly denied the presence of mold inside her home as well.
“They brought somebody in to do testing,” she said. “They will not release their report to us. They keep telling us it’s negative.”
Both women believe the military should have the ability to step in and help them. But base officials said they don’t.
In a statement, Kirtland officials told News 13 the agreement between the base and Kirtland Family Housing “does not provide the base the authority to oversee or manage maintenance activity in the home.”
The director of Kirtland Family Housing did not respond to phone messages seeking comment. Instead, the only thing News 13 received while gathering information for this story was a statement from Hunt Companies in El Paso.
And despite numerous company letters referencing the families’ concerns about mold contamination, the corporate spokesperson said, “There have been no maintenance requests or complaints that have come in or are pending regarding the issue you mention.”
However, after promos for this story began running on KRQE and KASA, the spokesperson contacted News 13 again and acknowledged receiving complaints from the Kirtland families. But, in a revised statement, the company denied any problems with the Fraatz home.
“Multiple inspections using our own trained maintenance staff and using independent certified mold inspectors confirmed that there were no water or mold problems in their home,” according to the statement. “We feel we went above and beyond what was required to assist the residents involved.”
Kirtland Family Housing has arranged to move the two families into different housing units and clean their personal property, though the families insist the cleaning methods weren’t good enough.
Fraatz and Ariel both said the mold problems are not confined only to their homes.
“I have heard from about six other families that have said they have visible mold but are too afraid to do anything
because they don’t want to be in the situation that we’re in,” Ariel said.
But those families and others across the country may have some relief coming in a proposed bill sponsored by U.S. Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Virginia. Known as the “Military Housing Oversight and Accountability Act,” it would grant military branches more oversight when it comes to military base housing.
Both families have contacted the offices of Sen. Tom Udall, D-New Mexico, and Rep. Martin Heinrich, D-New Mexico, for help.