Kathryn Boyd-Batstone / Rivard Report
City officials found high levels of E. coli in the soil of a mobile home park on Prue Road this week, prompting Councilman Ron Nirenberg (D8), whose district the park is located in, as well as the City’s Metropolitan Health Department to take preemptive measures to ensure the safety of the remaining park residents.
Living conditions at the Oak Hollow Mobile Home Park have been intolerable for years, according to residents. At the end of September, residents reached out to the media and the District 8 office to say that the property owner has been negligent and refuses to address numerous issues at the site, including overflowing septic tanks and leaking above-ground water tanks.
Soil and water samples were collected at the Oak Hollow Mobile Home Park after the City found out about the raw sewage, Nirenberg said Wednesday. Pools of waste gathered around a dozen homes, and all but one family vacated the property as ordered by City officials who cited serious health concerns.
The highest levels of E. coli found this week were in areas that had already been vacated, officials added. Nirenberg said it has not yet been determined if the raw sewage caused the E. coli in the soil, but code compliance inspectors are on the premises daily to ensure that there are no more spillages.
There have been no reported cases of illnesses, he added, but “we’ve heard anecdotes.
“We want to make sure that we’re taking every precaution necessary to protect the health and safety of those residents.”
The City is currently blocking off highly contaminated areas throughout the park, and officials collected more soil and water samples at the site Tuesday. Those results will be released later this week, Nirenberg said. The park’s potable water, which was previously tested, was determined to be safe, but also will be retested.
If the tests are positive for E. coli, then the City will assist the remaining 40 or so families in relocating to safer places, officials said, just as it did for the first 12 families who were ordered to vacate the premises. Nirenberg said that he’s unsure of the ratio of Oak Hollow residents who own their mobile units compared to those who are renting them.
The property owner, Joe Mangione, has received several citations from City inspectors, officials said, for violating code provisions related to permitting and operating septic systems. The City filed a nuisance lawsuit against Mangione Wednesday in hopes of forcing him to remediate the site and bring it up to code immediately, City Attorney Andy Segovia said.
A court hearing could occur in a Texas District Court as early as next week, Segovia added, or as late as two weeks from now. The Bexar County District Attorney’s office is also actively investigating the matter.
The Oak Hollow Mobile Home Park is part of a geographic region included in the City’s Urban Renewal Plan draft, meaning it could receive some of the $20 million housing bond funds as part of the larger $850 million 2017 bond. The City could use a portion of the housing bond to purchase land in the area, make it ready for development, and sell it to a nonprofit or for-profit developer to create affordable or mixed-income housing or a mixed-use development.
Mangione plans to evict the remaining Oak Hollow residents, according to the District 8 representatives that were on the City’s Neighborhood Improvements bond committee, which helped craft the housing bond plan. Nirenberg and others speculate that Mangione is refusing to address the issues at the park so its residents will be forced to leave, making the land available for development preparations.
One resident told the San Antonio Express-News that Mangione gave the residents a notice telling them to leave the property since the City has condemned it. This is false, seeing as the City does not have the authority to condemn the property, according to Segovia.
“The conversations that we’ve had and the letters that we’ve seen the property owner give out indicate that there’s not a willingness to remediate the issues on the grounds, and there seems to be a desire to get those families off,” Nirenberg said. “We don’t want anyone taking advantage of City code just to have people vacated from the property – That’s not okay.”
Oak Hollow residents are thoroughly frustrated by the situation. Some who left the property in October reported receiving notices from Mangione asking for rent payments for subsequent months, Nirenberg said.
He encourages all of the residents to vacate the premises, even if the newest soil and water samples come back free of harmful bacteria.
“We also want to – cognizant of the holidays – make sure we’re not disrupting their lives to an extent that’s not needed,” he said.