Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Mendo’s Board of Supervisors Approves Closure of Creekside Cabins—Conflicting Claims About Water Safety

[Watch the Board of Supervisors discuss the Creekside Cabins]

The Board of Supervisors ratified a state of emergency and order to close Creekside Cabins just north of Willits yesterday, amid conflicting claims about the safety of the water. 

On December 30, a sinkhole opened up outside the property, stranding about fifty residents and making vehicular access to their homes impossible. Today, the county is installing a temporary bridge to the property that will be in place for two days only, so residents can move out. After 5:00 tomorrow afternoon, the area will be closed to everyone, residents included, and staying onsite will be considered a misdemeanor.

CEO Darcie Antle reported that county Code Enforcement, Public Health, and Environmental Health had toured Creekside Cabins on Friday, January 20. “At that time, there was a number of health concerns due to sewage on the ground and running into the creeks,” she said. They submitted their findings to Public Health Officer Dr. Andy Coren, who declared a public health emergency.

The closure order specifies that the area is inaccessible for septic processing, garbage collection, and deliveries. Supervisor John Haschak described the situation as “tragic,” saying, “Unfortunately, it hasn’t been fixed by the private property owner…but I think everyone who has been involved has been working diligently and cooperatively to try to resolve the problem. There have been endless hours that the County and the State have put in to trying to resolve this issue. So I totally support the resolution, even though it’s very unfortunate, the situation that we’re in.”

Theresa Thurman, the property owner, told the Board she used a “honey pot” to pump the RVs, and that the leakage was treated properly, according to rules set by Housing and Community Development, the state agency that is in charge of mobile home parks. “Because I have to do what HCD tells me,” she told the Board. “I’m not governed by the County. And so I’ve never said I wouldn’t work with you, ever. I don’t appreciate that going out into the public. I don’t appreciate the fact that my water’s been treated as if it’s not okay and it’s not good, when in fact it is okay and good.”

The collapsed roadway at the center of the Creekside Cabins debacle [Picture by Matt LaFever]

Zachary Rounds of the State Water Resource Control Board’s Division of Drinking Water told us in an interview yesterday that there were high levels of E.coli in the raw well water on Thursday, January 19, though the treated water for drinking showed undetectable levels of coliform bacteria. Still, the Water Board issued a boil water notice, because the treatment is not adequate to assure that the water is free of E. coli.

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Thurman asked Public Health Officer Dr. Andy Coren about the tests. “Are you all aware that it tested negative for the treated water?” she asked. “Are you aware of that? I need to understand. Dr. Coren, are you aware of that?”

Coren told her that, “That is not my understanding.”

Zachary Rounds said that over the weekend, two consecutive tests of the raw water wells showed non-detectable levels of E. Coli. His agency was planning to downgrade the boil water notice to a precautionary boil water notice, though that had not gone out by the time the Board of Supervisors agreed to close the park. Rounds explained that because the well at the park is so shallow, it is susceptible to surface water and must be filtered and disinfected as rigorously as surface water before it can be used for drinking. However, the water treatment system at Creekside Cabins does not provide that level of treatment, which is why boiling the water is still considered an advisable precaution. 

The collapsed roadway at the center of the Creekside Cabins debacle [Picture by Matt LaFever]

A county press release that went out last night stated that,  “The confirmed prevalence of E. coli in the drinking water and the existence of sewage water on the ground of the campground both present a major public health risk for the community in the affected area.” And Haschak told us the drinking water was only one of many factors leading to the closure. Another is the lack of access.

The county only has a two-day permit from CalTrans to install the temporary bridge to allow the residents to move out. The cost of installing and removing the bridge, and having two people on traffic control 24-7, is approximately $250,000.

Supervisor Ted Williams asked Thurman what her plan for fixing the sinkhole is, and she told him the sinkhole is on CalTrans property. We were not able to confirm the status of the property ownership and encroachment permits by our deadline.

“Is the sinkhole on your property?” Williams asked Thurman. 

“No,” Thurman said. “It’s on, actually, state highway public right-of-way property…So if the encroachment permit is on their property, then they’re the ones that need to fix it.” 

Williams opined that, “I think this would be between the property owner and CalTrans. I don’t think the county is a party. The county doesn’t own any of the land involved.” 

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County Counsel Christian Curtis told the Board that he, too, has spoken to state agencies, and that the outlook for repairing the sinkhole is not immediate. “Our understanding has been that there was a brief opportunity, sort of at the beginning, while the storms were still happening, for the property owner to obtain certain emergency permits that would have allowed for the repair and restoration of access to the property,” he reported. “Our understanding is also that that window has probably passed, and that because of the steelhead spawning season, even if the property owner is to take action here, we’re likely to not see any permitted access to the property for a minimum of about six months.”

Danilla Sand, the Director of United Disaster Relief of Northern California, implored the Board to give residents more time to move out. “Keep in mind, 90% of these folks are on SSI, SDI, and/or Social Security,” she said. “Seniors with their whole lives’ belongings, will not be able to pack up everything in less than two days. Some residents have not registered their trailers because they thought the trailer would stay permanently. Now in order to move into an RV park, the trailer needs to be in their name with current registration and be able to move down the highway or be hauled at $150 an hour. There is more than one person there currently in the hospital who will not be able to drive out their vehicles or pack their homes. This is a six-month minimum job, not a two-day job.”

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  1. Easy fix bunch of dirt and fix the asphalt. They could do it quickly. Where’s the omega rich dickheads at. Sounds like a good opportunity for them to help for free. A bunch of selfish people in America and around the world.

    • At some point it becomes the owners responsibility to repair HER rental property, not anyone else’s . That greedy slumlord should be fined for everyday her property is a public nuisance !

  2. The good doctor Andy Coren continues the fight against the poor, the ill and the indigent. With the righteous aid of the county and state bureaucRATS these vile sewage spewing creatures will be scattered to the wilds, their flimsy dwellings crushed and hauled away, their wretched belongings dumped in the trash! Amen…..

    Karl Brantz

  3. They can all move their trailers next to the expensive anti homeless fence along 101 in Ukiah and wait until the new jail and courthouse get built. Our State and county know how to care for the poor.

  4. How can you tell disabled people, people with no money who have no where to go who have lived in the park for years to be gone in 2 days . They were told last week they would have to leave. Gave them 2 days to use the temporary bridge to get there belongings out. now they are told they can’t even get there belongings out they are not allowed to drive in and load there stuff up. So they are not just going to be homeless they lose all they’re belongings. Disabled people can’t carry all they’re stuff out. Plus they are being told to park down the road. They won’t even let anyone walk out of the park they said no one’s allowed to walk on the bridge. Tell me isn’t this a lot like when Hitler marched everyone out of they’re homes years ago. This is putting more homeless people on the street. It is not right!

  5. Please know that our local social services community is working hard with these people, stressing over it.
    If you are able to help these people yourself there are ways.
    The point is they aren’t safe there. And we aren’t safe downstream. And yes health care and housing is a crises.

  6. This is a problem of the property owner not local government. The property owner has been negligent all these years and should be sued and put in jail and fined.

  7. How many RVs are on the site? 25? 50? What does she charge? $2,000 a month per RV? Let’s just say there’s 50 RVs and she charges the tenants $2,000 a month. That’s $100,000 a month that this property owner rakes in, which is a ton of money. Month after month she’s been raking in dough for years, which means unless she owns several Lamborghinis and Leer jets and Epstein’s island, she has plenty of money to reinvest into her property and has all the money in the world to repair her property, roads, infrastructure, wells, sewage etc…
    This is classic negligence.

  8. “Please contact me if you’d like to work this out.” That’s speaks volumes. She thinks it isn’t her problem. Lady this is YOUR property! It’s YOUR Problem! YOU need to work and scramble like hell to take care of this problem. It’s private property. The COUNTY is not party to this. This lady has simply not MAINTAINED her property.
    She should be THANKFUL and skipping to ma lou that the County did her the courtesy and provided a bridge to her private property at the County taxpayer’s expense.
    This lady is nuts, delusional and entitled and refuses to take personal responsibility. Where’s the accountability? The people that live there should sue the hell out of this property owner.

  9. You moronic woman-you can’t “give it to CalTrans”. You can’t give $250,000 of County local funds to CalTrans, a state agency. This woman needs to come up with $250,000 of her own money and repair this.

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Sarah Reith
Sarah Reith
Sarah Reith is a radio and print reporter working in Mendocino and Humboldt counties, focusing on local politics and environmental news.

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