Dirty water has mobile home residents up in arms

Local News

Many residents Brookside Estates, a rural mobile home park near Jamestown, don’t drink the well water that serves their homes because it’s dirty.

Depending on the time of day and if it rains, the sinks or tub dispense water that is brown, orange or black. Even if the water appears clear, rusty-colored deposits sometimes drop to the bottom of the glass.

“Every time it rains I end up with black water,” said Delores Swanson, who has lived at Brookside Estates in Carrol, NY, since 2010.

“I don’t drink it.”

Brandi Bartlow, president of the Brookside Tenants Association, said laundered clothing sometimes gets stained by the rust colored water that fills the washing machine. Sometimes, the water reeks of chlorine.

She has since filed complaints with the Chautauqua County Health Department and the state Division of Homes and Community Renewal, which is the state’s affordable housing agency.

“Our water is coming out the consistency of a mud puddle,” Bartlow said.

“It’s not just my home, it’s multiple homes inside of this trailer court, I have multiple people that signed on to this complaint.”

Chautauqua County Health Department officials said they have tested the water at least six times and do not believe there are health risks. The department did find elevated levels of iron and manganese, which they said do not pose a health threat.  

“If you have brown water, it is very unappetizing,” said William Boria, a water resource specialist for the health department.

“We did a very detailed water supply inspection in January and we came up with some action items for the owner of the park that they need to do. We put them on a compliance schedule, as well.”

In New York, there are more than 70,000 mobile homes at almost 2,000 parks across the state.

Clean water at rural mobile home parks, which often serve low-income and fixed-income residents, has been a problem for years across the country as out-of-town managers struggle to keep the infrastructure up to date.

For example, Circle Courts Mobile Home Park in the Town of Wales has had on and off drinking water problems that required the owner to upgrade its filtration system. State health code require mobile home operators to maintain park utilities, including water infrastructure.

Russ Corey, general manager of the park, said he has hired engineers to find the root of the problem.

“They’ve been going through to try to figure out what the best remedy is,” Corey said.

“I don’t want something temporary, I don’t want a Band aid, I want something that’s going to be final.”

Residents won’t drink water

Brookside Estates mobile home park is owned by Jamestown MHC LLC, a subsidiary of Affordable Great Locations, which has offices in Caledonia and Canandaigua in the Finger Lakes area. The 35 acres assessed value is about $2.5 million, according to county tax records.

The company, which reported $1 million in annual sales, states on its website that it offers “new community homes” at various locations in Western New York and the Finger Lakes area, including Suburban Acres in Lockport, Fredonia Mobile Home Park in Fredonia and Hemlock Hills in Salamanca.

The Chautauqua County Health Department inspects county mobile home parks on an annual basis, according to Mark Stow, the director of environmental health services.

The most recent inspection of Brookside Estates was on July 30, 2018, when the health department found 19 violations for brush and branch piles left on concrete, a vacant trailer missing a wall and broken conduit for an electrical box, none considered to be public health hazards.

Residents at the park complained about other issues, unkept property, such as dead trees, potholes, electrical wires showing it outdoor conduits and sewer odors.

But the dirty water bothers them the most.

Tim Luke said he’s charged $100 a year for his water that he cannot drink.

“I’ve got to buy water for my dog,” he said.

“I don’t got the money. I mean, it’s terrible. A lot of these people around here aren’t rich, they are here because they can’t afford to live in a really nice place so they try to keep it up and do what they can, but a lot of these people are older.”

Bartlow, president of the Brookside Tenants Association, said she told the the mobile home park manager that if she kept getting billed for water, she would file complaints.

They did continue to bill her for the water, so she filed complaints with the Chautauqua County Health Department and the Homes and Community Renewal department, which is the state’s affordable housing agency.

“There are many issues in Brookside Estates Trailer Court,” is how Bartlow started out her complaint form to the state Division of Housing and Community Renewal.

“First complaint is our water. It is coming into our homes like muddy water on a daily basis.”

A News 4 Investigates crew visited the mobile home park in April and did not see dirty water come from any of the outlets. But although it appeared clear, Bartlow poured water into a glass and unusual deposits dropped to the bottom.

“The particulates that are coming out of the water while it settles is probably the iron and manganese,” said Boria, the water resource specialist for the health department.

“I want to stress that this is not a public health risk consuming the water.”

But some of the residents aren’t buying the health department’s testing results, which they said they’ve never actually seen.

“It bothers me because if my mother was alive she would be as old as some of these tenants are in here and I wouldn’t want my mother to live in conditions like this, I don’t know how some of these people get by with not having family and not having people to stick up for them,” Bartlow said.

“And their water is coming out like this and the health department just says, ‘ohh, just let your water run for a while, ohh, there’s nothing wrong with it.’”

Luke said he has tried calling the park manager numerous times but the only number that gets an answer is the sales department.

“They don’t care, they’re out there,” he said, referring to the company that is headquartered in the Finger Lakes.

Jonna Genco said she used to be the park manager for Brookside Estates for three years until 2012. She said she made management aware of the water problems back then.

“They would never call back, answer me, email me back,” she said.

“There was no upkeep. Absolutely none, and I finally quit.”

As a result of the water issues, the health department said they put the owners on a compliance schedule. The company has hired an engineer to investigate the root of the problem and the health department gave them until September to have a solution in place.

We’re addressing the problem and the residents have to be a little patient,” said Boria.

“We’ll solve it.”

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