Mom: Coast Guard knew housing was toxic

Coast Guard refuses to release West Chop lead records.

The U.S. Coast Guard was aware of lead contamination at West Chop and let her family move in anyway, a Coast Guard mom says. — Rich Saltzberg

Citing an ongoing investigation, the U.S. Coast Guard has refused to release 474 pages of documents related to lead analysis, mitigation, and poisoning at West Chop Lighthouse housing. As The Times reported in October, two Station Menemsha chiefs and their families moved from their homes at the lighthouse because of lead contamination. Long silent on the subject, the spouse of one chief is speaking out. Valerie Parent, wife of Chief Robert Parent, executive officer of Station Menemsha, and mother to children ages 10, nine, five, and one, released a statement to The Times Friday afternoon:

“In July 2018, our children’s pediatrician discovered that our then 4-year-old son and 11-month-old daughter had elevated levels of lead in their blood during a routine blood test,” she wrote. “In September 2018, the Coast Guard informed us of that they were aware of the extreme levels of lead contamination at the West Chop Lighthouse property for more than a decade prior to us moving into the residence. We still remain hopeful that the Coast Guard will do the right thing and provide us with some sort of assistance and closure moving forward, as this has been extremely stressful time for our entire family. We are in the process of moving off-Island over the next few weeks, due to a routine change of duty station for my husband and our family. During our tour here, the level of support and heartfelt concern we have received from the Island community has helped our family tremendously, and we will cherish the friends we have made here for years to come.”

On Friday, a Coast Guard official responded to Parent’s comments. ““The Coast Guard takes the safety of personnel and their families as a top priority,” David Schuhlein, chief public affairs specialist for First District Northeast told The Times. “At this time, the investigation out at West Chop is still ongoing. However, anytime an issue is brought to our attention, especially regarding safety and security, we’ll investigate it thoroughly.”

The Times reached out to Rear Admiral Melvin W. Bouboulis, assistant commandant for engineering and logistics, for an explanation as to why Coast Guard families could have been moved into homes with known lead pollution. Bouboulis signed the letter denying The Times request for documents, and indicated in that letter it was his decision to refuse to release them. A call from The Times to the Washington, D.C., address on the letterhead reached an executive assistant who said he no longer works in the office.

Messages left for Brian P. Burns, deputy chief information officer for the U.S. Coast Guard, were not returned. Burns also denied the request for documents in the case after The Times appealed.

As they did in October, Chief Parent and Senior Chief Justin Longval, commander of Station Menemsha, declined to comment on the matter.