July 26, 2023 — Residents of mobile home parks in Colorado are struggling with poor water quality and contamination issues. Many of these parks rely on private groundwater wells that have not been adequately tested for decades, resulting in water that is potentially hazardous to residents’ health. An article published by NBC News highlights the fears of residents.
The problem might be widespread. According to the Colorado Poverty Law Center, “over 100,000 people live in 900 mobile home parks across Colorado, and these parks provide the largest inventory of affordable housing in the state.”
Mobile home park residents, who often have low incomes, have been afraid to file complaints about water contamination due to the possibility of eviction from their affordable homes.
Colorado’s legislature has passed HB23-1257, aimed at improving and ensuring water quality in mobile home parks across the state. This new legislation empowers the Water Quality Control Division (division), under the Department of Public Health and Environment, to develop and administer a comprehensive water testing program for mobile home parks. Should a test uncover water quality issues, a series of actions are triggered. The park owner, local health departments, the division of housing, the water supplier, and the environmental justice ombudsperson are all notified about the test results, recommended remediation actions, and available grant funding.
The bill was signed by the Governor Jared Polis last month and enacted into state law (link to PDF copy of the bill).
Some highlights of the bill include:
Mobile Home Park Owners: Obligations and Opportunities.
Upon receiving notice of a water quality issue, park owners are required to take immediate action. They must inform park residents of the issue, comply with division orders, and ensure they do not pass the cost of compliance onto park residents. In addition, within 90 to 120 days after receiving the notice, park owners must submit a remediation plan to the division, which must then be completed according to a division-approved schedule.
The bill further stipulates that park owners, while complying with remediation procedures, must ensure the provision of a suitable alternative water supply or department-approved filters for their residents.
The division is to work in tandem with the Division of Housing to identify available funds, including grants, to support the park’s water quality remediation efforts.
Environmental Justice and Grant Programs.
The legislation also mandates the development of an action plan that adheres to environmental justice principles for addressing and improving water quality in parks. Additionally, the bill establishes a grant program to aid park owners, nonprofit entities, and local governments in tackling water quality issues.
The grant program will be overseen by the division, with funding provided annually by the general assembly.
Enforcement and Penalties.
HB23-1257 grants the division and the attorney general enforcement powers, with the capacity to issue cease-and-desist orders. The bill establishes that violations will be considered under the “Colorado Consumer Protection Act”.
In the event of non-compliance, severe consequences await park owners. These include hefty civil penalties of up to $10,000, with an additional $5,000 for each month the violation continues, forfeiture of the park if remediation plans are not developed or implemented, and inclusion in the “Mobile Home Park Act Dispute Resolution and Enforcement Program” registry. Notably, retaliation against a tenant for making a complaint is prohibited.
Long-Term Commitment to Affordable Housing.
The bill makes clear provisions for the continuation of mobile home parks as affordable housing. If a park is forfeited due to being declared a class 3 public nuisance, the property will be transferred to the county and will continue to serve as affordable housing for at least 100 years.
Funds Appropriation and Resident Representation.
To implement this act, $3,611,859 is appropriated from the general fund to the mobile home park water quality fund.
HB23-1257 places the responsibility of representing park residents in water quality matters on the shoulders of the environmental justice ombudsperson. The legislation also extends the mandate of the “Mobile Home Park Act Dispute Resolution and Enforcement Program” to include water quality issues.