EPA faults state agency for response to mobile home park water woes

Residents of Pineview Estates mobile home park in Miami Twp. were relying on bottled water last year after experiencing more problems with the water system at the site. CHUCK HAMLIN/STAFF
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Residents of Pineview Estates mobile home park in Miami Twp. were relying on bottled water last year after experiencing more problems with the water system at the site. CHUCK HAMLIN/STAFF

Efforts to force Ohio mobile home parks to provide their residents safe drinking water have been slowed by inaction on the part of the state agency that licenses mobile home parks, according to the Ohio EPA.

The Ohio EPA and Ohio Manufactured Homes Commission share oversight over the state’s 250 parks that operate their own water system.

This includes Pineview Estates in Miamisburg, where about 400 residents routinely lost running water; and Catalpa Grove Mobile Home Park in Dayton, where the owner failed to test the system for contaminants such as lead, copper and bacteria.

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In both cases, the Manufactured Homes Commission “denied any appreciable assistance” to the Ohio EPA in taking action on the park’s license, instead forcing the EPA to pursue the issue through lengthy court battles, according to a statement produced by the EPA in response to questions from this newspaper.

“(The manufactured homes commission) rarely – if ever – bothers to use its full regulatory authority to enforce safe water rules,” the statement says.

The EPA’s criticism comes as Ohio Gov. John Kasich calls for the commission to be disbanded and its responsibilities relegated to the Ohio Department of Commerce. The measure is part of the governor’s budget proposal pending before the Ohio General Assembly.

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Frank Pojman, president of the Association of Manufactured Home Residents in Ohio, said he understands Kasich’s interest in efficiency. But he is concerned that folding the work into another agency will diminish the attention paid by an agency focused solely on manufactured homes.

“I don’t think he has a clue as to what this commission does for the residents that live in manufactured homes,” he said.

Last week the Ohio Fire Marshal and Ohio Fire Chief's Association accused the commission of doing too little to protect mobile home residents from deadly fires – saying Ohio mobile home residents are more than 4 times more likely to die in a fire than site-built homes.

But officials with the manufactured homes commission say the criticisms overstate the agency’s role.

Agency director Janet Williams said they have never had clear authority to take action against a mobile home park owner’s license for water quality issues since they began licensing mobile home parks in December 2012.

“We want to work with them in the process of whatever legal avenue we have to help them enforce the water rules they have in manufactured home parks,” she said.

RELATED: Lead, other contaminants taint water in Ohio communities

Jim Demitrus, who sat on the commission from 2006 through 2015, said pulling a mobile home park’s license over water issues has serious consequences for the people living there.

“If they pull the license, everybody in that community has to move out,” he said. “I would like to see somebody in state government do that. Pull the license, and you have to move 100 families.”

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