By Cassandra Reinhart | LB Indy
Sewer gases present at Laguna Terrace Mobile Home Park may be coming from offsite sources, a representative of the park owner told residents Tuesday.
The findings show the detection of the sewer gas hydrogen sulfide in homes at levels that causes harm to human health.
“We have done whatever we could do, and there is no reason for us not to fix this problem,” Braun told residents.
Laguna Terrace’s sewer saga started in the spring of 2015, two years after Chicago-based Hometown America acquired the mobile home park and installed a new main sewer system. Hometown received its first documented complaint of odor in May of that year, and others followed.
“It was coincidental, the smells, and the fact that we had just finished putting in the new lines several months before,” Braun said. “We don’t treat any waste water on site here. What we did was put in new lines to take it from your homes and drop it down at the bottom of the street so it can head off to the treatment plant.”
Reacting to resident complaints, Hometown turned to Chicago-based RPS GaiaTech, which provides environmental risk management and engineering services. The company was hired to collect and analyze the data on the sewer smell to try and identify the source.
Last fall, the company conducted video camera inspections of a third of the park’s sewer lines, “smoke testing” of the lines for leaks, and monitors within the system indoors as well as outdoors to measure hydrogen sulfide levels.
The findings presented Tuesday showed no leaks in the park’s sewer system, but that outdoor hydrogen sulfide readings were equal to or higher than ones within the sewer system itself, leading park ownership to deduce that the source of the sewer gas is coming from outside the community.
“All we are suggesting is we seem to have an atmospheric issue that is on the periphery of the system,” Wayne Hunter, RPS GaiaTech’s lead project engineer, told residents. “Is there another contributor beyond what everyone else is pointing to? We don’t think at this point it is our sewer system.”
A test where smoke is forced through sewer lines revealed 31 minor defects, which were either fixed by Hometown or reported to residents as a homeowner repair in November. The fixes resulted in a 14% decrease of measured in-home levels, the report says.
Some residents disagreed with the data, saying they are still experiencing levels that don’t reflect the lower averages presented Tuesday.
“Your numbers shown up there, I don’t know how those numbers are showing such low statistics,” resident Megan Hampton told Braun. “We currently have readings in the threes and the sixes. Zero is acceptable in our home. One, three, five, six is not acceptable to be in somebody’s home.”
“I’m at a loss to say why you may be spiking to six at times, because it just doesn’t prove out that this gas is being generated by the lines we created,” Braun told Hampton.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, hydrogen sulfide levels of .01-1.5 parts per million present a rotten egg smell. At 2-5 ppm, nausea, headaches, and bronchial problems can happen.
“My health has been impacted,” Michele McCormick told Braun at Tuesday’s meeting. “It’s not okay, and I am not surprised Hometown is taking this position tonight that it is in our homes and we need to fix our homes.”
Last October, Hometown contacted South Coast Water District, which provides water and sewer service to the park, to install odor-trapping backflow devices at the connections of its sewer main with Laguna Terrace Park.
Hunter said there were no measurable reductions after that installation, but suggested air relief valves along a sewer main adjacent to the park warrant more investigation.
Braun said Hometown has shared its findings with city officials, wastewater providers and the state Office of Housing and Community Development, the agency with jurisdiction over mobile home parks.
HCD administrator Gabriel Contreras, who was present Tuesday, seemed satisfied the park owner was acting responsibly to address residents’ concerns.
While some residents thanked Braun for holding the meeting and presenting the findings, others say Hometown’s actions are insufficient.
“I was not informed this was going on,” park resident Valerie Wallace said. “There is no communication going on here. Something needs to be done about the communication.”
“The report you submitted to HCD was good; I just wish you would have been more transparent along the way,” McCormick said.
Braun pledged to do more moving forward, scheduling more smoke testing and doubling the amount of hydrogen sulfide monitors in the park to continue collecting data.
“We want now to help in trying to figure it out,” Braun said. “And I believe the cities and the agencies are going to try and help us figure it out and we will see what is next.”
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