CAMP ZAMA, Japan (Sept. 20, 2019) -- U.S. Army Japan leaders encouraged housing residents to voice concerns and ask questions during town hall meetings in February and May, and residents responded.

"If we want to look for information on how to treat or prevent mold, are there resources available so that we can be proactive?" asked one Soldier at Camp Zama. In Okinawa, Soldiers in barracks asked to have their air conditioners turned on earlier than scheduled.

Leadership delivered: USAG Okinawa officials approved the early use of air conditioning, and USAG Japan officials provided three updated documents on mold prevention online and, as of August, began giving a pamphlet and a standard operating procedure document to all new residents.

These are just two examples of multiple efforts and investment made over the past year based on resident feedback to continue to improve the quality of life in Army housing at the garrisons, according to Jeff Baulknight, chief of the housing division at USAG Japan.

Army installations around the world have been holding similar town halls in an effort to ensure residents are provided the safe, clean and healthy housing they deserve. U.S. Army Japan commander Maj. Gen. Viet X. Luong and Command Sgt. Maj. Scott A. Beeson will host another town hall meeting on Sept. 25 at 1:15 p.m. in the Camp Zama Community Club and in October for USAG Okinawa.

COMMUNICATION

The meetings have helped improve communication between residents and leaders and led to positive changes, housing officials said.

Baulknight said providing residents with information about mold and mildew prevention is important in Japan because of the high levels of humidity.

"Most of the mold here is based on mildew … and it's something [residents] can clean with household products," Baulknight said.

Also in regard to mold information, housing officials plan to increase knowledge by giving both an EPA prevention pamphlet and the installation's standard operating procedure document to residents at the newcomers' orientation.

USAG Japan also provides online information about trash sorting and collection on- and off-post, as well as access to an updated Army Family Housing Resident Handbook.

Baulknight said all sponsors should have access to the information on the U.S. Army Garrison Japan SharePoint site, and can print it out from there. But anyone who wants a copy can also contact housing (DSN) 263-4135 or (COMM) 046-407-4135.

One benefit to having the information online is that housing officials can update it regularly, Baulknight said.

INVESTMENT AND TESTING

Camp Zama housing officials are working on a plan to change the window blinds, said David Crespo, acting chief of the housing division's facilities branch.

Crespo said the new blinds will open and close by touch only, and he expects the phased installation plan to begin shortly with the initial push targeted toward homes with children under 9 years old.

In another effort to ensure the safety of Camp Zama housing residents, the Environmental Division is testing the water in housing, schools and child development centers for lead and is in the process of conducting radon testing, Baulknight said.

The Environmental Division is conducting the radon testing in all housing and several high-priority facilities such as schools, child care and medical facilities, said James Brown, chief of the Environmental Division.

Radon testing is routine for most installations and the testing does not mean there is a problem, Brown said. Testing in 1998 showed that Camp Zama and Sagamihara Family Housing Area were low-risk installations for radon.

The radon testing should be complete by Nov. 30, Brown said, and the water testing results should be available in a few weeks.

If the tests find lead above the criteria, officials will notify residents immediately, Brown said. The division would then follow up with additional sampling as soon as possible to identify the lead source and determine the best way to fix the problem. DPW would implement corrective actions immediately, and would then conduct additional sampling to verify the effectiveness of the corrective action, Brown said.

In regard to lead-based paint at Camp Zama, leaders provided information about the issue and what they are doing about it.

Federal law banned the sale of lead-based paint after 1978, and at Camp Zama and Sagamihara Family Housing Area there are 13 units built before that time. All 13 have had lead-based paint abatement performed in their interiors, and inspectors monitor the condition and communicate with the current residents. Lead-based paint is not hazardous if it is in good condition and left undisturbed.

Also, other buildings on Camp Zama and SFHA, such as the Child Development Centers, schools and health clinic, were built after 1978.

USAG OKINAWA

At USAG Okinawa officials have purchased new mattresses, enough to replace more than 40 percent of mattresses in the barracks, and they have plans to purchase the remaining number in the first quarter of fiscal 2020.

The Garrison also bought 650 dehumidifiers for Soldiers who live in barracks, and officials expect delivery in early fiscal 2020.

The Garrison replaced an air conditioning chiller unit on Torii Station barracks Building 235, completing the project in April. The replacement of another air conditioning chiller unit in barracks Building 138, housing Soldiers on Kadena Air Base, will start in December.

MAINTAINING THE HOUSING

Also this fiscal year, Camp Zama housing had worked more than 7,000 maintenance orders. Most of the maintenance orders were minor, such as mounting name plates, repairing screen doors and fixing plumbing problems, but housing officials highlighted two instances where they addressed more serious concerns proactively.

One family reported a bedbug infestation. Housing officials temporarily moved them out, treated the infestation, and had them back in the quarters within a week. Another family experienced a flooded apartment. Officials relocated the family, removed the water, and ensured the housing was safe.

"People are our greatest asset, and ensuring the health and welfare of our housing residents is crucial," said Col. Thomas Matelski, USAG Japan commander. "We want feedback from our Soldiers, civilians and family members. We are going to keep working these issues because we owe it to them."