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NAPLES, Italy — The Navy plans to end testing of one potential water contaminant in off-base homes, which will allow residents living in temporary lodging the chance to get into their new homes more quickly.

By the end of December, Navy officials say they’ll no longer need to test all lease-pending homes for volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, which will clear the backlog of sailors and civilians living in temporary lodging, said Capt. Robert Rabuse, commander of Naval Support Activity Naples. VOCs can be emitted by a variety of products, such as paints, solvents, and cleaning products.

The Navy decided to stop the VOC testing because "maybe two" out of 198 homes tested turned up evidence of VOCs, a Navy official involved in the decision-making process said.

The recent testing data — coupled with a policy in which the Navy temporarily stopped Americans from signing new leases in three targeted zones around Naples — mean officials feel comfortable that by month’s end, residents won’t be moving into areas where groundwater might be contaminated with VOCs.

The news was given to residents Tuesday at a town hall meeting at the Gricignano support site. Many residents voiced their frustration for monthslong stays in temporary lodging. Some have spent upward of four months living out of suitcases in hotels, just waiting for their off-base homes to be tested, inspected and cleared for move-in.

"There are scientists involved, there are lawyers involved, there’s the region involved, there’s the Italian health agencies, U.S. health agencies," Rabuse said, explaining the process. "Navy Region Europe is extremely cautious and wanted to make sure that everything they do is erred to the conservative side and protective of our health."

Many at Tuesday’s meeting said they were well past the 60-day cap usually allotted for house-hunting.

"I don’t know what the exit strategy is," said Master Chief Petty Officer Craig Kelley, the Naval Hospital Naples command master chief, who arrived in Naples in late August. "I don’t know what I have to do to get out of [temporary lodging] after the Navy has spent over $20,000 on my room since I arrived."

"It’s doubled my PCS costs," Kelley said. "And I feel like I’m wasting Navy dollars when there’s a house out there."

As of Dec. 9, 53 military or on-orders personnel using the temporary housing allowance had been at the Navy Lodge at Gricignano longer than 60 days.

Residents also complained about lack of uniformity with the housing inspection process and said they were worried about the security of household goods in storage. Some said their reimbursements for lodging had been delayed. Others worried about the prospect of spending the Christmas holiday in a hotel.

In September, the Navy began testing all prospective homes for the presence of bacteria and VOCs, with the latter taking up to three weeks to process, analyze and report results. Bacteria testing takes only a few days and is done at the base hospital.

In mid-November, Rabuse signed off on the "New Lease Suspension Zones" that include the towns of Villa Literno, Casal di Principe, Marcianise and Arzano. The suspension zones were made based solely on environmental testing done by U.S. experts and data provided by Italian officials, Rabuse said.

A map of the zones is posted on the Web at: http://www.nsa.naples.navy.mil/risk/docs/PH_IINewLeaseSuspensionAreaBasemap11122008A.pdf.

A variety of forms for lodging billsResidents complained at a town hall meeting Tuesday night of delays in processing payment claims for extended stays in temporary lodging.

But much of the delay is because applicants are not turning in properly completed forms, said Lt. John Leitner, the officer-in-charge of Naples’ Personnel Support Detachment.

Residents in temporary lodging receive a hotel bill every 10 days they are in the hotel. They get a five-day grace period to pay the bill.

Accounts should be settled with reimbursement money paid by the support detachment, and not with personal credit cards or government-issued travel cards, he said.

Residents staying in temporary lodging for more than 15 days need to have reimbursement requests signed by their appointed temporary-lodging coordinators and a housing office official. After 30 days, requests must be signed by department heads and the housing office.

After 45 days, requests must be signed by the member’s commanding officer and housing, Leitner said.

Requests from residents for more than 60 days must submit an extension form approved by the base commanding officer or executive officer.

Generally, once the support detachment receives a request, claims are paid within 48 hours, he said.

— Sandra Jontz

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