Friday Apr 20 2012
Unsafe conditions fill Auburn mobile home park, residents say
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
Poor drinking water, mold among their complaints
“Home is what you make it,” David Freeman says as he opens the door to his trailer. Despite that comforting adage, the Auburn resident can’t help but be angry over the conditions at Glen Oaks Mobile Home Park, where he and his wife Dale Freeman rent a space. The debris from torn down trailers sits en masse in one lot. Freeman and many of the other residents say they don’t drink the water — a new well system may keep the E. coli that was once present out, but it still tastes bad and comes out less than clear. “I gave my granddaughter a bath last January and she broke out in this rash,” David Freeman said. “I took her to Chapa De (medical clinic) and they said to bathe her with bottled water and put cream on her.” Thick deposits of mold have grown on the walls of the cabin Heather Huff, 33, of Auburn, rented in February for her and her son. Open sewer lines, decaying dead rats and a corrosive chemical bottle sit in plain sight on one empty lot. In a small corner of her trailer Dale Freeman busily works on a spreadsheet she has created on the computer to calculate an accurate version of their electric bill for the month. For years the electricity meters hooked up to each unit were out of compliance with Placer County regulations. County officials say they have been sealed and certified now, but residents say they still receive bills that aren’t correct. Management at the mobile home park says the park is in compliance and works to address all tenant complaints. The county department of environmental health said while mobile home parks fall under state jurisdiction, it is doing its part to assist a concerned resident. Since he moved in about eight years ago, David Freeman said he has tried to act as an advocate for his neighbors and reported violations to the governing authorities as the park gradually deteriorated. Dale Freeman said for her part, she has kept meticulous records of the violations, inspections and incorrect bills. “They say, ‘If you take it outside the place, you are going to get a bad name,’” David Freeman said. No longer hoping for ‘the American dream’ Before they moved in to the park, the Freemans lost their 2,000 square foot home in Pilot Hill. Dale Freeman said they bought the house with cash, but took out a loan on their equity and couldn’t pay it back after she suffered a chemical burn in her eye and was out of work. Living in their trailer was supposed to be a temporary solution while they transitioned back into a house, but David Freeman’s work as a journeyman heating and air-conditioning installer began to decline with the economy. They currently pay $390 a month to rent the space, plus electricity. “We’re not going to have the American dream now,” Dale Freeman said. Now, they want to make the best of what they have as they hope to go back into the workforce. Across the park, Huff, the 33-year-old mother, recently got a new job within walking distance of the park. She was thrilled to move into one of the property’s cabins in February, but a few weeks after she moved in mold began creeping through the paneling on the wall. When she pulled off the paneling the wall beneath it was covered. It grew so bad in her son’s bedroom that they both sleep in the living room now and many of their possessions have been ruined. Management offered to give her a discount on her rent or her deposit back, but hasn’t offered to reimburse her for her ruined possessions. “He can’t live in here anymore,” Huff said. “His mattress is filled with mold. My friends don’t even visit me anymore.” She said her electric bills for February and March were almost identical, despite the fact that she only lived in the unit for 11 days in February. The top of the bill for February states she was billed for 32 days of electricity. When she brought up the complaint with management, she said she was told not to “pay attention to that. That is written on all of them.” Management says there is an explanation. Huff filed a report with Placer County Environmental Health and is discussing what she should do next with her lawyer. Well company weighs in on water In 2009, the water in the park was tested and found to have E. coli or Fecal Coliform. Arthur D. Fulton, general partner of Diamond Well Drilling and Water Lab said his company was commissioned to build a new water system in 2011 when the county insisted the antiquated system be replaced. He said since then baseline bacteriological testing has showed the water is safe to drink, but two additional tests exist that could impact the water beyond that. One tests for substances which are considered a primary impact on human health, like lead and the other tests for aesthetic qualities, including taste and odor. The Placer County Water Agency treats all of its water to that multi-step test, he said, but smaller water systems are not required to go beyond bacteriological testing. “Small systems don’t have to test for primary standards or second standards,” Fulton said. “They really only to have to test for bacteriological standards.” Fulton said while Diamond Well installed the systems and occasionally provides water testing, the park chose to be responsible for its management. He said the well system at Glen Oaks is not designed to filter out the substances in all three levels. Management says they work with residents Mary Carlson, manger of Glen Oaks Mobile Home Park, said there is nothing wrong with the water quality, but admits it isn’t always clear. “Yes, the water does turn a little red sometimes. They come up and it’s like they clean the lines out. It clears up within just a few hours,” Carlson said. While the Freemans have installed numerous filtration systems in their trailer, Carlson said other residents could improve their water quality by replacing old pipes. Carlson said she has never threatened residents when they have complaints and tries to work with them on resolutions. She said Huff’s electric bill was about the same for both months because a new hot water heater was installed in the unit. She said while she does handwrite in the amount for each electric bill, the owner, Randy Wentzel does the math and recites the numbers to her. “I don’t take care of the math part of it. I do space by space by space,” Carlson said. “The tenants don’t seem to understand. They rise from one season to another, winter is a little lower.” Randy Wentzel, who owns the mobile home park, declined to comment for this story. Dale Freeman said she does understand how the billing process works in detail and even downloads her own rate sheets from PG&E. She said because mobile home units are all sub-metered and the final bill is sent to the mobile home park, paying directly to PG&E is not an option. State has recently written citations, county says Ed King, deputy sealer of weights and measures for the county, said while the meters are certified, the county will continue to audit the park as needed Mike Fitch, Placer County spokesmen said the county is doing all it can to assist with the situation at Glen Oaks Mobile Home Park, but the entire park is under state jurisdiction. “The state agency reported to the county that one of its field inspectors visited Glen Oaks on April 10, issued citations and scheduled the property for re-inspection with 30 days,” Fitch said. Despite three inquiries from the Journal to speak with a state official about Glen Oaks Mobile Home Park, none had commented by press time. Freeman said he has filed the complaints despite threats of retaliation because his other neighbors are afraid to and noticed in the past couple of days an open sewer line was capped and a small amount of debris was collected from the empty lot. “We want the park cleaned. We want fresh, clean water,” David Freeman said. “We are tired of getting patted on the back and getting nothing done.” Reach Sara Seyydin at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow her on Twitter @AJ_News.