Mobile home residents near the defunct Geer Road Landfill aren't getting much relief from chronic water problems.
Pinewood Meadows Mobile Home Park residents are in their sixth week without drinkable tap water, their attorneys have declined to sue on their behalf and the park's lawyer threatened a woman who spoke out.
The current boil-water notice, like many in past years, warns of total coliform bacteria consistent with naturally occurring gunk in aging metal pipes, not pollution from the old dump across Geer Road.
But Rosemary Sofes, president of a homeowners' association at the park, continues to wonder why park owners refuse to allow supplementary well testing ordered by state water officials, to make sure. She received a nasty letter from the park's Costa Mesa attorney threatening to sue because her words apparently are making it hard to sell the park.
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"Your activities are clearly intended to inexcusably ruin the reputation and character of this business," attorney Phil Woog wrote in the letter, dated July 23. "Your false allegations confuse and alarm any prospective purchasers."
Sofes said attorneys who helped residents win $3.5 million in two previous lawsuits recently backed away from a potential third, after weighing the case for a year.
The flurry of news prompted an emergency meeting of the mobile home owners Thursday.
"All I did was ask the question, 'Why can't the water be tested?' and now they want to sue me," Sofes said. "I never said it is contaminated. I would just like to know if it is."
At Thursday's meeting, the homeowners association decided to start collecting money to hire a certified lab to test the water for contaminants, Sofes said.
The bacteria responsible for the latest no-drink warning resulted from laying a new water line to serve some of the park residents. "With the new line, they should have fewer problems," said Sonya Harrigfeld, the county's environmental resources director.
Pinewood was created on a bank of the Tuolumne River north of Hughson in 1966, five years before the landfill began operating nearby without a protective bottom liner. A few years later, tests began showing groundwater pollution. Stanislaus County paid millions of dollars to buy out two adjacent families and stop their lawsuits.
Investors ask questions
The county and Modesto, which own the dump, have spent more than $6.5 million in 13 years trying to clean water beneath the soil, including 34 monitoring wells. County representatives, in a March Bee story, insisted that the underground plume is slowly moving away from the park and the river.
After publication, state water officials stopped communicating with Sofes, she said.
Sofes said she answered questions when a man in a white Cadillac chatted her up while taking photographs about two months ago. He told her he worked for the park's current owners, she said.
A month later, a helicopter landed at the former landfill and four people walked across Geer and came to Sofes' trailer, she said. They identified themselves as investors thinking about buying the park and talked for about 45 minutes, she said.
Woog demanded that Sofes "immediately stop engaging prospective purchasers to inform them of various false allegations." He said her "slanderous assertions" are "driven by your own personal greed, as part of a scheme to recruit a sufficient number of ill-advised residents to prosecute yet another lawsuit."
Sofes said, "The whole point is intimidation. If they could shut me up, maybe the rest would sit down and be quiet."
Park owners have supplied bottled water since the initial boil-water warning June 26.
Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2390.