Empire mobile home residents forced to boil water

EMPIRE -- Boiling water before using it is a chore anytime; it's especially unappetizing in August in the Northern San Joaquin Valley.

But residents of a mobile home park east of here are firing up their stoves after a water main break last week left the water system contaminated.

"Three lines burst open," said Rosemary Sofes, who has lived in the 177-space park near Geer and Jantzen roads since 1995. "A friend of mine went home, and at 1 o'clock in the morning the line burst in her house."

Residents of Pinewood Meadows Mobile Home Park have called the Stanislaus County Department of Environmental Resources about the problem, environmental health manager Denise Wood said Monday.

"They have an old distribution system," Wood said. "(The owners) have plans that have been submitted, reviewed and approved by this department to replace that system."

That project is waiting on funding through the federal government, Wood said, so in the meantime, workers are making a short-term fix. That should be complete Wednesday or Thursday.

Park managers sent residents a notice advising them to boil any tap water before using or drinking it.

Evans Management Group of Santa Cruz, which has run the park since 2006, has made bottled water available to residents at the park's clubhouse. The county doesn't require the park to do that, but Evans Management owner Greg Evans said, "Those are our customers. We realize it's a very warm summer."

Sofes was among about 70 residents who sued park owners in 2003, seeking improvements in the water, electrical and sewer systems. In 2006, they got a $1.6 million settlement. A lawsuit against previous owners in 1996 resulted in a $925,000 settlement.

Sofes said residents have formed a chapter of the Golden State Manufactured-Home Owners League and have considered filing another lawsuit over substandard conditions at Pinewood Meadows.

An environmental health inspector has been to the park and will oversee the repair project. Once the fix is made, Wood said, the county will test the water to make sure it's suitable for use.

Wood said the state contracts with her department to oversee small water systems similar to the one that serves Pinewood Meadows.

"When people are out of compliance we work with them to get them into compliance," she said.

That can involve enforcement letters and, in some cases, fines and citations.

But that hasn't been the case at Pinewood Meadows.

Wood said the park has been in compliance with state and county regulations.

"They're on the right track, yes, indeed."

Bee staff writer Patty Guerra can be reached at or 578-2343.