Local News

Buried Debris Forces Out Bragg Families

Posted November 29, 2007 1:00 p.m. EST
Updated November 29, 2007 7:07 p.m. EST

— Eleven families have had to move out of housing on Fort Bragg in recent weeks because construction waste was illegally buried in their yards, officials said Thursday.

Three families along Bandolier Circle were relocated in August, and eight families on Market Loop in the Nijmegen neighborhood were packing up their belongings Thursday to move to other houses on and off the military post. Another 59 families have been placed on alert that they also might be forced to move.

"It's just a lot of moving. All the time, all the time, all the time," said Darcia Bailey, who had just moved into a house at Fort Bragg last year and was getting ready to move again Thursday.

Residents alerted Fort Bragg officials about possible problems when sinkholes began appearing in their yards. Officials then discovered debris like concrete, bricks, tree branches, carpeting and old appliances was buried on sites where military housing has been built in recent years.

None of the construction waste poses a health hazard, officials said.

Lake Park, Fla.-based Palm Beach Grading Inc. has been blamed for the illegal dumping, which occurred in late 2004 and early 2005. The company is a subcontractor for Picerne Military Housing, which is building thousands of new homes on Fort Bragg for Army personnel and their families.

It's unclear how widespread the problem is and whether any houses would have to be razed as part of the clean-up effort.

"When we get to the point where we've identified material underneath houses – we are still doing that right now – we're going to assess all our options, not necessarily knocking houses down," said Kurt Ehlers, who heads Picerne's operations at Fort Bragg.

"Right now, we're in the investigation stage of this process, trying to identify all of the areas that would have illegally buried debris," he said. "Until we understand the full extent of the buried debris, it would be speculation as to how many families – if additional families – would have to be moved."

Palm Beach Grading was digging up yards Thursday to remove the waste, and Ehlers said the company is paying for the entire cost of the clean-up.

"The Army, the Bragg community and families living on Fort Bragg will not incur any costs associated with this remediation," he said.

Contractors are required to haul construction debris to a landfill, and Fort Bragg provides a free landfill on the base for such waste. Ehlers said it's unclear why the subcontractor didn't follow procedures.

Palm Beach Grading officials couldn't be reached for comment.

“We have very good systems and controls and processes in place to oversee and monitor contracted work. This was illegally dumped and disposed of material,” Ehlers said.

Fort Bragg spokesman Tom McCollum said the Army Criminal Investigation Command has launched an investigation into the dumping, but no charges have been filed yet. The base also has terminated all contracts with Palm Beach Grading, officials said.

"I just thought, 'Who could do something like that,' especially, you know, (to) military families because it hurts us in the long run, having to move after somebody's done something like that," Bailey said.