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U.S. EPA pushes for clean water on Torres-Martinez reservation Agency pursues enforcement, offers grants, to improve drinking water

Release Date: 10/25/2004
Contact Information: Francisco Arcaute, U.S. EPA, 213/244-1815

SAN FRANCISCO The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently ordered four trailer park owners on the Torres-Martinez Reservation, located in Riverside County, Calif., to comply with federal drinking water requirements or become subject to civil penalties.

The EPA previously sent letters to the four trailer park owners -- who supply drinking water to more than 2,000 of the Reservation's non-tribal residents -- warning them to comply with federal drinking water requirements applicable to public water systems under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. The EPA has now ordered the trailer park owners to begin monitoring their drinking water systems for numerous contaminants, including total coliform, nitrate and nitrite, and lead and copper.

Failure to comply with the orders could result in fines of up to $32,500 per day per violation.
"Waterborne illnesses from contaminated water are easily transmitted," said Alexis Strauss, director of the EPA's water division in San Francisco. "These illnesses can seriously affect immuno-compromised persons, the elderly, pregnant women and infants."

Another federal agency, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, previously filed an unrelated lawsuit against another trailer park owner on the Torres-Martinez Reservation to seek improvements in the health and safety conditions at the park. As part of the settlement of the lawsuit, the trailer park owner, Harvey Duro, has agreed to ensure that drinking water provided at his trailer park complies with all federal and tribal standards.

The Tribal Council of the Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians is working with the EPA to develop a regional feasibility study to provide safe drinking water and wastewater disposal for tribal members and non-tribal members within reservation boundaries. The tribe has applied for $100,000 of EPA funds to conduct this feasibility study.

The increase in the demographics in the Coachella Valley and the lack of affordable housing, create a high demand for affordable housing for workers and the most available option is mobile homes.

For more information on the EPA's Tribal Program, please visit: