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Rep. Ruiz calls on EPA to increase water supply for Oasis Mobile Home Park residents

Congressman Dr. Raul Ruiz is calling on the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to increase its water supply for residents of Oasis Mobile Home Park.

For nearly three years, the residents of the park have lived with high levels of arsenic in their water system. Drinking high levels of arsenic has been linked to cancers of the bladder, lungs, and skin.

Currently, park management provides residents with one gallon of clean water per person per day.

Ruiz said that while this amount of water is often the standard amount that government agencies believe a person needs per day, the calculation does not consider soaring temperatures, which can approach 110 degrees in the area.

On Tuesday, Ruiz wrote to EPA Administrator Regan to require the owners of Oasis Mobile Home Park to provide an adequate supply of water to its residents.

“Failure to provide enough water to residents under Emergency Orders can have dire consequences,” wrote Dr. Ruiz “Residents may also be tempted to not follow the EPA’s guidance and use the water, risking increased chances of lung, bladder, and skin cancers, as well as heart disease, diabetes, and neurological damage. Children who use the water also risk developmental issues. Alternatively, insufficient water could lead to people not drinking enough and suffering from dehydration. Neither of these outcomes are acceptable.”

The water issues at the Oasis Mobile Home Park date back to at least August 2019. That’s when the EPA issued its first emergency order after finding that the arsenic levels in the water system were up to nine times the maximum contaminant level.

Since then, the EPA has gone on to issue two additional emergency orders at the park over the same issue. The most recent Emergency Order, issued on September 15, 2021, requires the owners of the park to provide each resident with a gallon of drinking water per day.

Last week, county officials held a community meeting to hear from the park’s residents. During the meeting, residents showed Supervisor Manuel Perez a notice, dated July 1, that the water in the community should not be used for any purpose, including drinking, bathing, cooking, or brushing one’s teeth.

Following the community meeting, the county teamed up with the FIND Food Bank to deliver 1,200 gallons of bottled water to the park’s residents.

More than 200 families, which is nearly 1,100 individuals, live at the Oasis Mobile Home Park which is located on tribal land near Thermal.

In June, the Board of Supervisors approved the allocation of $7 million for phase 1 of the Oasis Villas Apartments. The project will create new affordable and safe housing opportunities for families living at Oasis Mobile Home Park and other dilapidated housing in the east valley.

The $7 million for the project comes from a $30 million state grant Riverside County received to provide relocation assistance for the park’s residents.

On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors directed the Riverside County Executive Office and other agencies to accelerate efforts to coordinate the relocation of the park’s residents.

The Oasis MHP is not the only area affected by the issue. As I-Team investigator Peter Daut learned last month, more than 115 communities in the eastern Coachella Valley were affected.

In May, I-Team investigator Peter Daut took an in-depth look at the water issues in the east valley.

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