Airmen at Grand Forks Air Force Base Displaced After Water Outage, Flooding in Dorms

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An installation sign is displayed at the main gate of Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota.
An installation sign is displayed at the main gate of Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota Oct. 31, 2019 (U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Brody Katka)

A water main break in a dormitory at Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota has pushed dozens of airmen off base and into hotels -- leaving some to pay the cost up-front.

On Tuesday, a "water main failure flooded the first floor of Eielson Hall" causing damage to airmen's personal belongings and stopping all water usage. Another dormitory, Kollinger Hall, also had water shut off due to the incident.

"Effective immediately, all residents of Eielson and Kollinger Halls are authorized and encouraged to vacate their dormitories and secure commercial lodging off base," the base said in a Tuesday Facebook post. "Airmen should make reservations for two nights as repairs are expected to be completed in 48 hours."

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But those displaced airmen will have to pay for those hotels up-front with their own money or use a Government Travel Card, and follow-up to their chain of command with documentation and paperwork, to secure an off-base room at nearby hotels.

"Airmen will pay for lodging using personal funds or their Government Travel Card. Airmen will be reimbursed after completing a SF 1164, [a] claim for reimbursement for expenses on official business, following their checkout date," the base said in the Facebook post.

Master Sgt. BreeAnn Sachs, a Grand Forks Air Force Base spokesperson, told Military.com “approximately 100 airmen were impacted and offered off-base lodging” due to the incident.

Sachs added that repairs are scheduled to be finished on Wednesday, and airmen will return to their rooms "following successful repairs and water tests." No additional information on the extent of the damaged property due to the flooding was provided.

"At this time, there is not an estimated cost of damage to personal property," Sachs said. "Detailed instructions for filing personal property claims will be communicated to all affected airmen this week through their respective chains of command."

The woes at Grand Forks Air Force Base's dormitories are just the latest examples of issues with military barracks that were put under scrutiny by a government watchdog late last year.

A 100-page Government Accountability Office report issued in September, based on visits to 12 military installations in an effort to examine the living conditions of troops in base housing, detailed horrid examples such as sewage issues that made entire buildings smell like methane, tap water with a brown tint, and insect infestations.

Pests such as bedbugs and cockroaches were a common issue at six of the bases that the GAO visited. Several bases had severe issues with security in the buildings, to the point that service members said that they were unable to lock their doors at night and squatters had moved in.

The plumbing problems and water considered unsafe to drink sparked a rebuke from Congress. Lawmakers quickly voiced frustration with the services over the conditions, Military.com reported.

The issues with barracks, cafeterias and dorms have been known for decades to those in uniform. Military.com has also been diligently reporting on the issues.

While lawmakers have said they're planning to focus this year on military quality-of-life issues, including persistent problems with barracks, it could be caught in the crossfire of a political fight over the federal budget.

Related: Barracks Repairs, Other Military Quality-of-Life Improvements Slam Into Congress' Upcoming Budget Fight

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