Mobile home park residents seek water remedy
Lewiston Morning Tribune (ID), 2014-02-14
Feb. 14--MOSCOW -- Crystal Thompson and her husband spent the first 10 days of February living without running water in their home, making it so they couldn't even flush the toilet.
The Moscow couple are among residents in the Syringa Mobile Home Park who have been without potable water since December, when the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality deemed it undrinkable even if boiled. The state has since filed a civil complaint against trailer park owner Magar E. Magar of Vancouver, Wash., for the ongoing issue and violations related to the park's wastewater and drinking water systems.
The complaint alleges Magar committed a number of violations, including failure to provide adequate water pressure, failure to comply with testing and reporting requirements and the presence of coliform bacteria, chlorine and lead it the water.
Thompson, who moved to the park in October 2012, said not being able to drink the water isn't the only problem residents have faced. She and her husband were among several residents without any water when their pipes froze after temperatures dipped in January and February.
Charles Gorton, another resident of the park, said frozen pipes are a regular occurrence in the winter. The park managers and some volunteers from local churches went around this year to help defrost the pipes for residents.
Gorton, who has lived in the park for five years, said he buys drinking water and keeps about 40 to 50 gallons on hand as reserves in case of an emergency -- like when he was without water for five days this year.
"That's why I have the 50 gallons on hand," he said.
Problems with water for the park's residents are not limited to the cold temperatures.
"The water's been an issue for a long time," Gorton said. He alleged chlorine in the water made it so he couldn't even make coffee or take a shower without his eyes burning.
About a month and a half after moving in, Thompson said she was notified of E. coli allegedly in the water. Due to her and her husband's health conditions, she said they haven't consumed the water since.
"We have to spend gas money to go into town to get free water from the city of Moscow," she said, noting they regularly use the available pump station in town.
Gorton, who rents his home from another owner in the park, said he has seen some improvements made in the park. The water pressure is better now that two breaks in the water line about 5 feet into the ground have been fixed and the chlorine pump has been replaced.
Even so, some of the park's residents have reached out to the Idaho Legal Aid Clinic through the University of Idaho for assistance in gaining usable water.
Jessica Long, a supervisor for the Idaho Legal Aid Clinic's general practice portion, said the clinic was approached by some of the park's residents in January. The clinic operates with third-year law students who have earned limited licenses to practice law in Idaho to provide free legal services to a variety of clients.
The students have spent about a month meeting with residents of the park and researching different options to see what legal action could be taken to get the residents clean and usable water, Long said. She and Maureen Laflin, director of the program and supervisor for the mediation clinic, are working with four students on the case.
Long said the students have been out to the mobile home park to meet with residents. They are hoping to have a plan for action in about two weeks.
"We're just exploring what legally we can do to help them with their water," she said.
Rudd may be contacted at email@example.com or (208) 791-8465. Follow her on Twitter @elizabeth_rudd.
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