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Rep Ruiz says BIA knew of about unsafe living condition at Oasis Mobile Home Park for more than 13 years

Congressman Raul Ruiz, M.D. revealed on Tuesday that the local Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) leadership allowed the owners of Oasis Mobile Home park to operate without a business license and with unsafe conditions for more than 13 years before the park faced a contaminated water issue.

We've been covering Oasis Mobile Park since August 2019, that's when the Environmental Protection Agency issued an emergency order due to high arsenic levels in the park's water system. The arsenic levels found in the park's water system were more than nine times the maximum contaminant level.

Details: ‘Contaminated Communities’: help for arsenic-tainted mobile home park water systems

According to the EPA, arsenic has been linked to numerous kinds of cancers, including of the bladder, lungs, skin, kidney, nasal passages, liver, and prostate. Non-cancer effects can include thickening and discoloration of the skin, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, numbness in hands and feet, partial paralysis, and blindness.

Park residents said the children in the community were displaying some of the signs of arsenic poisoning.

“Sometimes their stomach hurts and sometimes they have to vomit,” one resident said. “A lot of times they feel sick and I’ll take them to the doctor, but they never know what’s really wrong.”

The troubles at the park continued despite the EPA's warnings.

"The issue of arsenic has not changed, there are still high levels of the water and besides they have problems with the problem with the drainage," Nataly Escobedo Garcia, water coordinator for the Leadership Council, told Telemundo 15's Marco Revuelta on July 2, 2021.

Ruiz's office said he launched his investigation into issues at the park earlier this year after, "Local BIA officials failed to take meaningful action to fulfill their responsibility under the federal trust responsibility for Tribal lands."

On April 1, 2020, Ruiz said he wrote to BIA Director Darryl LaCounte asking a series of questions about BIA’s involvement with Oasis. In BIA’s response, the agency revealed they had visited OMHP in 2007, where numerous deficiencies and safety hazards were discovered.

The BIA did not conduct a further site visit and had no further contact with park ownership until recently.  

“For over a decade, the BIA refused to act on numerous safety hazards at the Oasis Mobile Home Park,” Ruiz said. “This raises serious concerns about the ability of local BIA officials to enforce the law and protect the health and safety of my constituents. I will continue to push for accountability at the Oasis Mobile Home Park until I know my constituents can safely turn on their faucets without being exposed to toxins.” 

Ruiz's office also mention the investigation was launched partly due to a mulch fire that burned right near that same area for over a month in Oct 2019, prompting the evacuation of students during school.

To continue his effort to prevent future crises, Ruiz authored a directive in the Fiscal Year 2022 Interior Appropriations bill directing the Pacific Region of the Bureau of Indian Affairs to submit a list of all outstanding business permit applications and/or businesses operating without an approved permit on Tribal land and develop a plan to increase to hold them accountable for complying with existing laws.

The bill is expected to be voted on by the House of Representatives in the coming weeks. 

Meanwhile, 20 Oasis Mobile Home Park residents banded together and filed a lawsuit against the landlord. The lawsuit remains ongoing.

Oasis Mobile Home Park residents may also be close to being relocated to a new home. State Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella) included a $30 million budget request to support the 1,900 residents of the park. The inclusion was approved and residents now just wait for Governor Gavin Newsom to sign the state budget.

Learn more about the plan to move Oasis' residents through Telemundo 15's story on July 2, 2021.

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Jesus Reyes


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