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TRAILER RESIDENTS SEEK SEPTIC HELP.

Byline: Charles F. Bostwick Staff Writer

MOJAVE - When raw sewage from Haven of Rest trailer park's septic system bubbled up May 30 behind Martha and Martin Davidson's trailer home, it wasn't the first time.

In February 2002, sewage flooded their tiny yard, creating a foul-smelling moat around their front steps. Last Thanksgiving, the smell was so bad that the Davidsons say they couldn't stand to eat dinner at home.

``I'm tired of this,'' Martin Davidson said this week, standing in front of his home.

Under three orders from the state since May 30 to fix the septic tank system, Haven of Rest has missed a July 2 deadline to make progress on repairing the system. State officials say they are preparing documents to go to the Kern County District Attorney's Office to seek court action.

However, the septic tanks behind the Davidsons' home and a neighboring home have been pumped out, ending the overflow onto the ground. State officials - and residents - believe pumping the tanks is only a temporary solution and the overflow will resume unless the system's leach lines are repaired.

``It'll be OK for a couple of months, and then it will be back,'' said Martha Davidson, who said the overflow has sent sewage up their homes' pipes and into the bathtub, giving her skin problems.

The park owner could not be located for comment.

The park, located beside the Antelope Valley Freeway and next to the Burlington Northern Santa railroad tracks, has about 45 homes, inhabited mostly by low-income families. The Davidsons say they can't move because they own the trailer they live in, and it is so old that other mobile home parks won't accept it.

The park is under a state order to remove vacant, dilapidated mobile homes, such as one with a collapsed roof that sits in the desert across the dirt road that borders the park. About five years ago, when the park had a different owner, a septic tank system serving the northern part of the park had to be replaced after it failed, state officials said.

State officials said their preference is to make the park safe, and to avoid closing it and evicting the residents.

``Our goal is to keep it open,'' said Ron Javor, an assistant director for the state Department of Housing and Community Development, which has jurisdiction over mobile home parks. ``We don't want to make the park residents victims just because the park owner has refused to comply.''

Videotape shot May 30 at the park shows two pools of bubbling gray water behind two homes and not 20 feet from a tire swing used by children who live there. On the videotape, a garden hose leads from a murky pool across a dirt road and onto nearby railroad right of way, draining off some of the raw sewage.

Someone called the Kern County Fire Department that day. That was when the state was called in.

A state inspector ordered the park to pump the septic tanks, to stop discharging the water onto the railroad property and to fix the tanks.

After four calls from complaining residents over the Memorial Day weekend, state inspector Steve Swanson returned June 2. He wrote: ``I found a pool of raw sewage one to two feet deep and 20 feet in diameter (with flies) stinking like heck.''

On a third inspection June 11, Swanson reported that the septic tanks had still not been pumped out and that over the septic tank leach lines were two pits, one of them 21 feet across and 4 or 5 feet deep. Swanson threatened to have the park's operating permit suspended or revoked.

The tanks have since been pumped, a new concrete lid created for one of them and dirt spread over the pits to fill them in. But residents say they believe dirt was contaminated by the sewage overflow, and they worry about health risks.

Residents also complain that it is taking too long for the government to take action.

Javor said state law specifies a park owner must be given 30 days to correct a violation, unless there is an imminent health risk. Officials believe pumping the tanks and filling in the pits removed the immediate risk.

But Javor said the park owner has not obtained permits from the Kern County Health Department to repair the system to prevent future overflows.

They are preparing documentation to go this week to the District Attorney's Office, which could either file criminal charges or seek a court order mandating the repairs, Javor said.

The Kern County District Attorney's Office has obtained court orders against three other mobile home parks in the past two or three years and succeeded in getting those parks fixed up, Javor said. In the worst cases, officials can ask for a judge to appoint a receiver to take over operation of the park and use rent money to make repairs.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jul 14, 2003
Words:818
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