Ruiz Uncovers Over a Decade of Poor Oversight at Oasis Mobile Home Park; Continues push for accountability in upcoming legislation
PALM DESERT — In his ongoing quest to discover the truth surrounding high levels of arsenic in the drinking water Oasis Mobile Home Park, Congressman Raul Ruiz, M.D. (CA-36) revealed that local Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) leadership had allowed the Oasis Mobile Home Park (OMHP) to operate without a business lease and in unsafe conditions for more than thirteen years prior to the ongoing drinking water crisis.
Ruiz began his investigation earlier this year after local BIA officials failed to take meaningful action to fulfill their responsibility under the federal trust responsibility for Tribal lands.
In August 2019, the Environmental Protection Agency issued an Emergency Order for the Mobile Home Park in response to high levels of arsenic in the drinking water, which is located on Tribal land. Around the same time, a mulch fire burned at an unpermitted green recycling facility on Tribal land in the Eastern Coachella Valley for over two weeks.
Shortly thereafter, Ruiz convened a meeting with the BIA and the EPA to discuss how the situations arose and how each agency could protect the constituents of the 36th District.
During that meeting, local BIA officials told Ruiz they were unable to affect the situation at the Oasis Mobile Home Park. Nearly 20 months later, the BIA announced they would be conducting site visits of the Oasis Mobile Home Park to bring it into compliance with health and safety regulations. Ruiz then began an investigation into the BIA’s oversight of OMHP, suspecting that if BIA is taking action in 2021, they could have done so in years prior as well.
On April 1, 2021, Ruiz wrote to BIA Director Darryl LaCounte asking a series of questions about BIA’s involvement with the OMHP. In BIA’s response, the agency revealed they had visited OMHP in 2007, where numerous deficiencies and safety hazards were discovered. The BIA did not conduct a further site visit and had no further contact with park ownership until recently.
“For over a decade, the BIA refused to act on numerous safety hazards at the Oasis Mobile Home Park,” Ruiz said in a prepared statement. “This raises serious concerns about the ability of local BIA officials to enforce the law and protect the health and safety of my constituents. I will continue to push for accountability at the Oasis Mobile Home Park until I know my constituents can safely turn on their faucets without being exposed to toxins.”
To continue his effort to prevent future crises, Ruiz authored a directive in the Fiscal Year 2022 Interior Appropriations bill directing the Pacific Region of the Bureau of Indian Affairs to submit a list of all outstanding business permit applications and/or businesses operating without an approved permit on Tribal land and develop a plan to increase compliance with permitting laws. The bill is expected to be voted on by the House of Representatives in the coming weeks.
- Oasis Mobile Home Park: Ruiz's office