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Fort Gillem/Toxic Air

Fort Gillem/Toxic Air

The following is a transcript taken from a Fox 5 news report on toxic air at Fort Gillem:

Deidra Dukes: Take a look at this community outside of Fort Gillem. Now, on the surface, it looks like any metro Atlanta neighborhood. But what you can’t see is the health concern that lingers inside these homes. Test results prove the air is toxic. Now, residents believe years of dumping on the Army base has poisoned the air. So far, the Army has only taken responsibility for one facility. Fox 5’s Nicole Estaphan goes looking for answers in this special report.

Nicole Estaphan: It’s easy to see why some folks choose to live here: a picturesque suburb, a quiet piece of nature, just ten miles south of the busy Atlanta landscape. But it is what lies below the surface and in the air, what cannot be seen, that has families here, at best, uncertain, at worst, lying awake at night wondering.

Phillip Haney: Nothing I can do. Keep the air filter clean, changed, but that’s not going to stop it.

Nicole Estaphan: Phillip Haney says he feels helpless. Just a few weeks after he lost the love of his life, his wife of four decades, to cancer, he now says he’s worried about his own health. The home they shared, passed down through generations, a home less than a mile from Fort Gillem, a home in danger.

Phillip Haney: We’ve been here a long time and this was a nice safe neighborhood to raise our kids in. Now all of a sudden, we find out it’s contaminated. It’s very irritating. If I thought for one second that that’s what killed my mother-in-law and killed my wife, I would be very upset.

Nicole Estaphan: Haney lives in one of several homes that according to the state’s Environmental Protection Department has tested positive for toxic gasses, toxins that the EPD believes to be the legacy left behind from chemical dumping at Fort Gillem.

Bert Langley: All the hydrologists were telling us, well, it’s not going to move in the ground water much and it’s going to move very slowly and they were all wrong. It moves many times faster than the science at that time said it would.

Nicole Estaphan: In 1992, contaminants were found in ground water running from the base. Ten years later, the first sign that residents were being exposed. Chemicals found in this well just feet from the base, and in August of this year, alarming test results. Now a study by the Army and approved by the EPD has confirmed the air inside several homes is contaminated.

Bert Langley: What initiated the study expecting a finding of no problems and being very surprised at the results they got.

Nicole Estaphan: On September 24th of this year, discouraged by the Army’s response so far, the EPA issued this order to the Army. In these pages, a timetable outlining exactly when the mitigation process must begin. Two months later, residents here are still waiting.

Bert Langley: We clearly think it’s unacceptable. We’ve expressed that the to the Army.

Philip Haney: There’s over a hundred different chemicals here, and I don’t know how many are exactly in the house.

Nicole Estaphan: Instead, residents have received this: results of a test prepared by the Environmental Protection Division. We dug into the results and the list is long. According to these documents prepared by the Environmental Protection Agency, gasses in the soil surrounding these homes include Trimethybenzine, Benzine, Chloroform, Tetrochloroethane, among several others. According to the agency for toxic substances and disease, the potential side effects of the contaminants found are long and varied, from skin irritation to cancer.

Phillip Haney: I think my home is considered a Level 2, which is going to require mitigation and will require a venting system.

Nicole Estaphan: But Haney and other families will have to wait. We asked the Army why, though the EPA documents say contaminants found inside nine homes is consistent with those found on the Fort Gillem property in previous investigations. In an e-mail response from an Army spokesperson it states, Army scientists found only one facility where there is a potential causal link between activities at Fort Gillem and indoor air quality. The Army will now run seasonal tests on the nine homes and others.

Bert Langley: From our standpoint and what information we’ve seen, it looks like a good number of these homes, it appears that the Army has contributed, if not caused the entire vapor intrusion issue in those homes.

Nicole Estaphan: For now, families here wait…

Phillip Haney: I’m at the mercy of the United States Government.

Nicole Estaphan: …wait for their homes to be cleared of toxins, wait on answers. The next round of testing here is scheduled for January. As far as getting the Army to do anything to fix the homes now that have already tested positive, the EPA tells us they have no authority to force the Army to do anything. In Forest Park, Nicole Estaphan, Fox 5 News.

If you or someone you know has been affected by the contamination at Fort Gillem, we would like to speak with you.

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