High Levels of Arsenic in Park Drinking System Prompts Federal Response

THERMAL (CNS) - A mobile home park on the Torres Martinez Indian Reservation in Thermal is plagued by elevated levels of arsenic in the water system, prompting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to direct the park owner to make fresh water available to occupants and find ways to mitigate the contaminants, the federal agency announced today.

EPA officials said groundwater tests at the privately owned and operated Oasis Mobile Home Park in the 88-700 block of Avenue 70 revealed the presence of arsenic at 16 to 97 parts per billion. The federally recognized maximum limit is 10 parts per billion for drinking water.

``EPA is committed to ensuring everyone, including the Oasis Park residents, receives water safe to drink,'' EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Mike Stoker said. ``We will continue to work with the drinking water system and the tribe to meet this most basic need.''

Tribal Chairman Thomas Tortez Jr. noted that reservation administrators do not supervise the mobile home park, which is controlled by a private party. However, he said the tribe is fully cooperating with the EPA's efforts to enforce the federal Safe Drinking Water Act in order ``to protect persons living on the Torres Martinez Indian Reservation.''

Tortez described the arsenic as ``naturally occurring'' in the reservation aquifer, but there was no explanation as to why the substance had reached high levels.

The EPA emergency order mandates that park managers provide one gallon of safe drinking water to each of the facility's roughly 1,900 residents on a daily basis, that they increase sampling of the water system, obtain technical reviews to determine how to reduce arsenic levels and develop a certified water treatment apparatus that ensures the contaminants are held below high-risk thresholds.

Failure to comply with the order could result in fines as high as $23,963 per day, according to the EPA.

The park is largely home to migrants who work in agriculture throughout the eastern Coachella Valley.

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