UPDATE: Fort Benning responds to reports of lead at military housing

UPDATE: Fort Benning responds to reports of lead at military housing

FORT BENNING, GA (WTVM) – U.S. Senator David Perdue and Senator Johnny Isakson are seeking answers after reports of dangerous lead levels at Fort Benning, and the military base is now responding.

This is following a Reuters report on August 16 detailing lead poisoning and dangerous lead levels in housing on U.S. Army installations, including Fort Benning.

Fort Benning responded to the reports saying that they make sure homes are ready to move into when the lease is signed and that the home is safe and meets EPA standards.

Fort Benning's Spokesman Ben Garrett released the following statement:

We inform residents how to identify disturbed paint and whom to call for immediate remediation. Our maintenance personnel repair painted areas that have chipping or flaking as soon as it is identified by maintenance or the resident.  If necessary during the repair, residents may move into temporary housing at no cost. The privatized housing partner "Villages of Benning", has an on-going strategy to replace windows, garages, and plumbing which further reduces chance exposure risk. The garrison command and Villages of Benning send periodic reminders to residents to watch for changes to conditions of lead-based paint and to report problems. The garrison command and the Villages of Benning take Soldiers' and Families'  safety very seriously. This is our top priority and why we inform and immediately respond to any report of exposed lead-based paint."

Senator Perdue was joined by U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), and Mark Warner (D-VA) in sending a letter to the Secretary of the Army Mark Esper raising concerns about the report:

"We write to you today concerned about recent reports of lead poisoning at a number of Army installations. The health and safety of our service members and their families are of the utmost importance," the senators wrote. "We ask that you provide our offices with a detailed briefing as soon as possible outlining the immediate and long-term mitigation strategy to keep military families safe, provide medical treatment for those potentially or previously affected, make long-lasting repairs, and finally, provide legislative proposals or guidance on legislation needed to hold maintenance contractors accountable."

On Tuesday, August 21, in a Senate Armed Services hearing, Senator Perdue submitted a question for the record regarding the report of dangerous lead levels at Fort Benning to Mr. Alex Beehler, nominee to be Assistant Secretary of the Army for Energy, Installations, and Environment.

Perdue asked the following question:

"Mr. Beehler, a recent Reuters investigative report outlines multiple instances of lead paint poisoning occurring aboard Army installations across the country. The report specifically highlights occurrences at Fort Benning. Five out of five homes tested at Benning had hazardous levels of deteriorating lead paints. At least 31 small children tested high for lead at the Fort Benning hospital in a six-year period. From 2011 to 2016, blood tests from bases across the Army registered more than 1,050 small children who tested above the CDC's elevated threshold. Many of our bases have on-base housing managed and operated largely through private partnerships and our families and children are being put at risk. If confirmed, what recommendations do you have for action to ensure our installations are safe for our families to live?"

On Thursday, August 23, Perdue and Isakson, joined a bipartisan group of senators secured an amendment to the FY19 defense funding bill requiring the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to report on the monitoring and remediation of lead and verifiable compliance with lead exposure limits in military housing.

"Families are the backbone of the military. We owe it to our men and women in uniform to ensure their families have access to safe and comfortable housing on base, especially here on American soil," said Senator Perdue.

Perdue also says he is concerned with the recent reports that military families and children have been exposed to dangerous lead conditions at Fort Benning and other installations across the country.

"We are actively working to get more information from the Army, so we can chart the best path forward and improve the safety of on-base housing at Fort Benning and beyond," he said.

We have reached out to Fort Benning for a statement.

Copyright 2018 WTVM. All rights reserved.