Warning of potentially high arsenic levels in drinking water, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued three emergency orders to privately owned and operated mobile home parks on the Torres-Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indian Tribe’s Reservation near Thermal, authorities announced Tuesday.
The orders require the owners of Mora Mobile Home Park, Valladares Mobile Home Park and Toledo Mobile Home Park to comply with federal drinking water requirements under the Safe Drinking Water Act. In particular, the orders have to do with the arsenic levels in the drinking water provided to residents.
The maximum amount of arsenic allowed for drinking water is 10 parts per billion, according to the EPA. The EPA alleges that Mora’s water has 52-63 ppb, Valladares’ 77-82 ppb and Toledo’s water has 63-65 ppb of arsenic.
“We have recently completed inspections and sampling of a number of smaller drinking water systems in Indian country that exceed arsenic drinking water standards,” said Martha Guzman, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest.
“These orders require measures to achieve compliance and access to safe drinking water at these mobile home communities.”
Arsenic is a naturally occurring mineral that can be found in groundwater. It is a known carcinogen and can cause severe health problems if consumed at high levels over a prolonged period.
The EPA issued emergency orders mandating that park managers provide one gallon of safe drinking water to each of the facilities’ residents daily while the problem gets fixed. They will also be required to submit a long-term compliance plan for EPA approval and properly monitor their water systems.
The EPA also found the Indian Village Mobile Home Park on Torres-Martinez land to be violating a 2020 order and issued a $3,021 fine for not employing a certified drinking water operator.
The EPA said it will continue to monitor the situation at these four parks and levy civil penalties if park owners fail to meet the emergency orders.
The situation is similar to one at the Oasis Mobile Home Park, also on Torres-Martinez land. The EPA in 2019 and 2020 conducted multiple samplings of water supplies at the location and issued emergency declarations because of exposure concerns.
Due to the hazardous conditions there, a state grant was awarded in October for the county Department of Housing, Homelessness Prevention & Workforce Solutions to find alternate living arrangements for between 1,000 and 2,000 Oasis residents, most of them field workers and their families, residing in about 350 mobile homes.