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Military spouse concerned house is putting her family's health at risk

By Whitney Burbank, WhitneyB@kvia.com
Published On: Jan 30 2013 02:44:22 PM CST
Updated On: Jan 14 2014 09:32:54 PM CST

Reporter: Whitney Burbank

EL PASO, Texas -

The wife of a Fort Bliss solider with two young children said the last thing she should worry about is her family's safety in their own home, but she claimed the Logan Heights home she's lived in for five months has put her entire family at risk.

Army wife, Stephanie Propst said her family was sent to a hotel while repairs were made to her military home. Wednesday evening, she found herself suddenly locked out of the home, after being told the hotel assistance would stop.

"Locks are changed, I can't get into my own home," Propst said as she choked through tears. "They didn't tell me."

Fifteen minutes before Propst arrived at her home, while she was discussing the contamination inside her home with the contractor that maintains post housing, Balfour Beatty Communities, ABC7 crews witnessed the contractor's crews locking her out.

"We're just waiting for our locksmith, that's all," said a Balfour Beatty Communities employee parked outside Propst's home, he would not offer any further comment.

Propst said her problems started when construction crews replacing heating ducts in her home made an unexpected discovery.

"The contractor said that there was lead-based paint in the house," said Propst.

At first, Balfour Beatty Communities spokeswoman, Maureen Omrod said Propst's claims were false.  

"Oh yes, there was testing done," Propst maintained, "He tested it in the bathroom and I was standing in the hallway right next to him  when he tested."

Upon a second discussion, Omrod revealed the Propst home did test positive for lead, but Omrod maintained Propst was informed about the lockdown.

"They've locked me out of my house because they don't want the world to know what they're making these soldiers live in and their families," Propst said.

The Propst family was living out of an East El Paso Microtel when construction started on Monday but Propst says shes concerned about exposure to lingering lead particles

"(My son) has a wood crib and it was all white, I mean literally put your finger on it and push hard to get to the surface, and they're not replacing any of our furniture, any of our belongings, none of the clothes, toys, nothing that we've lost."

The Centers for Disease Control notes lead is particularly dangerous to children can cause learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and, at high levels, even death.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, lead can be harmful for adults too, especially those who are exposed to lead paint in areas undergoing renovation or repair work.

While Omrod admitted the paint in the Propst house does contain lead, she said the samples of dust and debris do not. According to Omrod, Balfour Beatty Communities has now agreed to find Propst another home, extend her hotel stay, and pay for moving expenses to clean her belongings.

Propst said she wants the damaged items replaced, especially because he said, her 1-year-old son suffers from a respiratory illness, "I'm not putting my children's health at risk because its not worth it."

Omrod said Balflour Beatty Communities has no plans to launch an investigation into the Logan Heights neighborhood, which according to the Balflour Beatty Communities website, was built in 1961, but she said they will assess contamination claims on a case by case basis.

But Propst said her trust in Balfour Beatty Communities is broken and her faith in the military is wearing thin.

"When you're away from family the military, they're your family," said Propst. "The way we're being treated, it's uncalled for and its inhumane and we don't deserve it and we deserve a lot better than this."

Garrison Public Affairs Officer for Fort Bliss, Jean  Offutt, sent this statement regarding her claims:

"We take pride in taking care of our Soldiers and families. Everything
possible was done to ensure the family was living in a safe environment.
Their home was tested and no evidence of lead was found, and while this was
being done they were accommodated at a local hotel. In returning to their
home prior to completion of the remediation process, some residue of
contractor dust was found on the furniture and while this was being taken
care of residents were asked to leave the quarters. Family was offered a new
home and to be moved at no cost."

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