Sounds like a wonderful place
U.S. sues over squalor at desert trailer park
The suit demands that the park's owner either make improvements
or be closed down. Thousands of migrant workers could face eviction.
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
October 10, 2007
Calling conditions at a Thermal trailer park indecent, offensive and representing an immediate threat to the life of its residents, the U.S. government Tuesday filed a lawsuit against park owner Harvey Duro demanding that he make immediate improvements or be closed down.
The suit said the estimated 4,000 residents of Desert Mobile Home Park -- also known as Duroville -- on the Torres-Martinez Reservation face threats including vermin-borne disease, electrocution and cholera from unsafe drinking water.
"There are severe health and safety concerns at the mobile home park, and while Harvey Duro has promised to alleviate those issues, he hasn't, and he will have to make them immediately or we will shut him down," said Thom Mrozek, spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles, where the suit was filed in U.S. District Court.
The suit describes a place of Third World squalor with tenants beset by hazards on every side.
Poor construction, improper sewage disposal, fire threats from tightly packed trailers and jerry-built electrical systems create the potential for what is described as a "catastrophic event."
A park spokesman dismissed the allegations as gross exaggerations and said they were stoked by racism on the government's part.
A story in The Times in March chronicled many of the problems as it described life within Duroville and other parks on the reservation.
"Drinking water at the Trailer Park is not safe . . . presenting the risk to residents of cholera and other diseases," the lawsuit said.
"Human waste in the Trailer Park is drained from trailers and businesses and dumped in a series of open lagoons . . . some of which are located within 30 feet of mobile homes."
The system itself leaks sewage under and around trailer and common area."
Park manager Jack Gradias disputed the allegations, saying that although some improvements, such as upgraded pipes, needed to be made, most problems were caused by the mostly Latino farmworkers who live there.
"Just about everything they are talking about is related to the tenants' trailers and not the park," he said.
The suit was filed following a Bureau of Indian Affairs inspection in July that found that Duro, a member of the Torres-Martinez tribe, had not made improvements agreed to in a 2004 court settlement.
The BIA found that 100% of the trailers surveyed had sewage wastewater accumulated around them, failed to comply with potable water system codes, did not meet fire safety requirements, failed to provide a safe supply of propane gas and didn't meet grading and foundation requirements.
The report also said that 80% of the trailers had potentially hazardous electrical connections. It said rodents, wild dogs and standing water had attracted large swarms of mosquitoes and flies, along with fleas and cockroaches that could carry disease.
"At more than one location dead rodents and fresh feces were observed," the report said.
According to the inspection, the 40-acre park has 354 trailers where only 272 can be safely accommodated, creating a fire hazard.
A fire in May destroyed six trailers and required the evacuation of 120 families. It was only because a firetruck was already responding to blaze at the dump next door that more trailers weren't lost, the BIA said.
Gradias blamed the dump for the rodents and said flies were attracted to the grape vines near the park.
The July fire, he pointed out, was arson, not electrical. He also disputed the number of trailers in the park, saying there were closer to 280, not 354, though he acknowledged they had not been counted yet.
The effect of the bad publicity has been that many Duroville residents are withholding rent for fear they will be kicked out if the park closes. Gradias said the park was owed more than $300,000 in back rent.
"Up until now we haven't evicted people," he said, "but we will."
Alan Singer, a spokesman for Duro, said the government was motivated by racism and was deliberately targeting Native Americans and the overwhelmingly Latino residents of the park.
"The blatant exaggerations are indicative of how desperate the BIA and the government are to continue this despicable behavior," he said. "Worrying about cholera is nonsense. I can come up with three years of clean water reports for this park."
Duroville, along with three other trailer parks, is on Indian land and does not have to abide by local or state health and building standards. An estimated 12,000 people live in the parks. But the BIA insists the parks are illegal because they do not have government-approved leases. No one knows what would happen to the residents if Duroville were shut down, and the government has been meeting with Riverside County officials to discuss the possibility.
The Environmental Protection Agency and the BIA recently inspected the other three parks and found numerous water, electrical and sewage violations. The owners, all tribal members, have been ordered to hire professional electricians and engineers to make repairs or the owners would face further sanctions.
Isn't it nice when immigrants bring their own culture with them when they come to the US? The conditions in this trailer park sound like where these people came from in mexico.
You think? What's the 3rd magic ingredient for the shitstorm - American Indian reservation - check, migrant field workers - check......
The guy runs a trailer park and doesn't even know how many trailers are there?
American companies taking advantage of migrant workers by paying pennies on the dollar for the labor....check.