Four Coast Guard families living at the Northport base say they have been ordered to leave their housing because of lead contamination, but the Coast Guard isn’t doing enough to help them get out.
The families say they need anywhere from $6,000 to $10,000 each to pay deposits and broker’s fees for regular housing off base, but the Coast Guard is not helping with those finances. Each family receives a housing stipend of $3,300 a month.
“You are telling us we can’t live here because it is dangerous but you have no strategy, you have no answers for how you are going to help us to get out,” said Lauren Glick, who lives in one of the houses with her husband — a Coast Guard diesel engineer and search and rescue worker — and her 8-year-old son.
“They have no plan. They have no money. They have nothing,” she said.
The contaminant was detected this summer as part of a nationwide review of 67 older Coast Guard houses to determine if they have high levels of lead, said David Schuhlein, a spokesman for the agency. The Coast Guard has a total of 2,000 properties in the United States.
The Coast Guard does not dispute that the families in Northport are in a difficult position, and is doing what it can to expedite their move off the base, though red tape is slowing it down, Schuhlein said.
Like any bureaucracy, the Coast Guard has various offices that deal with different issues, he said. “There are efforts underway to try to find alternative ways to” assist the four families.
They are “not lying to you, for sure,” he said. “What they are telling you as of now is accurate.”
Most of the families are younger, midlevel employees of the Coast Guard and are not earning high salaries, he said.
Glick said her family moved onto the base four years ago and has had a litany of health problems since then: pneumonia, congestion, migraine headaches. But she can’t prove it is caused by the lead, she said.
“It’s a big mess and it’s been one thing after another, and no help, nothing whatsoever,” she said. “All we are asking is just the money to cover us to move out.”
The problem first came to light last year when lead contamination was discovered in older Coast Guard housing on Martha’s Vineyard, Schuhlein said. That led to the nationwide review of housing, called the Safe Homes Initiative.
The older homes being examined are in 24 locations around the country, he said.
Paint containing lead was banned in 1978, but many Coast Guard houses were built before then and never remediated, he said.