Written by Bruce Leshan
Created:3/16/2007 3:40:22 PM
Last Updated:3/16/2007 6:30:26 PM
Washington, DC (WUSA) -- A major 9NEWS NOW EXCLUSIVE -- allegations from a former inspector at Walter Reed of widespread and dangerous problems in nearly all the buildings at the Army's premier hospital.
Burst steam pipes near electrical cables, rats, mold, and holes in floors and walls -- all of that extends far beyond the well-publicized problems at the notorious Building 18.
And 9NEWS NOW has learned managers may have been slow to respond.
A worried quality control inspector, Mark Cordell, finally quit last week in frustration, and brought his fears to 9NEWS NOW.
"I won't sit back and watch someone get killed," he says while running through 81 pictures of the problems on a laptop computer.
Cordell says the worst of it may be Building 40. The old research institute has been condemned, but last week, the private contractor now responsible for maintaining Walter Reed sent workers in to fix a leak.
Cordell points to a picture showing the terrible decay inside the building and says, "The water is actually on the ground floor here. There is water halfway across the ground floor. And there's electricity too. There's high voltage that goes to this building. Two thirteen thousand volt transformers. Through the basement filled with water."
Cordell took more pictures in Building 1, the old hospital, that's now the main administration building. Water damage in the walls; holes in the ceilings next to electric cables and computer servers; hazardous waste stored between occupied floors; and leaking pipes that are rotting floor joists.
"The steam pipes below these buildings have burst, and it's making the rafters on the basement floor wet. People work on those floors," says Cordell.
When the Washington Post exposed the black mold in Building 18, where wounded soldiers recover, the contractor sent Cordell in to coordinate repairs. He says he did 250 to 300 work orders in two weeks.
The Army moved many of the injured soldiers to Building 14 -- and Cordell says as soon as they arrived the troops found more problems.
"So the building the soldiers moved to is just as messed up as Building 18?" asked 9NEWS NOW Reporter Bruce Leshan.
"Yes. Every one of the buildings at Walter Reed is the same way, or worse."
Cordell has a stack of e-mails -- nearly a week of trying to get managers to hire a qualified high voltage electrician to shut off the power to the flooded Building 40.
He finally went to the Garrison Commander who thanked him. But he's still unsure if it's been fixed.
He says, "They more or less told me, just be quiet and let it go. Well you know what, I can't let that go. Look at this, this is corrosion, stuff just wasted away. When they fix one steam leak, it just bursts somewhere else."
A spokesman for Walter Reed declined to offer any comment on the situation. But a Pentagon public affairs officer called and promised a response soon.
IAP, the private contractor that took over maintaining the hospital last month, released a written statement, saying it acted "without delay" to deal with the situation at Building 40, but that it took a little while to find "electrical schematics" and bring in a "high voltage subcontractor."
It also says Cordell's photographs were part of a survey it's using to develop a comprehensive building maintenance and assessment plan.
Bruce Leshan Reports