County of Riverside proclaims local emergency in response to flooding and leak of unknown materials in the Thermal area

Breach of the retaining berm at the Lawson Dump Site on Torres Martinez tribal land near Thermal caused the County of Riverside today to proclaim a local emergency.

“The eastern Coachella Valley suffered a massive amount of damage caused by flash floods on Friday and, as county emergency management crews were surveying the damage over the weekend, they found a retaining wall by the Lawson Dump had been breached,” Riverside County Fourth District Supervisor V. Manuel Perez said in a statement. “This is a public health emergency in addition to the flash flooding damage that was worse for the eastern Coachella Valley than Hurricane Hilary. Ordered closed but never cleaned up, the Lawson Dump is considered to be the largest toxic dump in California and continues to threaten our communities. There are many concerns as the county team has been working on this, and we are going to need the federal government and the state to help our communities.”

Three mobile home parks in Thermal and near the Lawson Dump are flooded with water and other unknown materials. The San Jose Mobile Home Park, Vargas Mobile Home Park and Gamez Mobile Home Park have been under an evacuation warning since Saturday, Sept. 2.

A shelter is available for residents at the Galilee Center in Mecca. Evacuated residents will be provided with a safe place to stay, meals and services.

All residents in this area should avoid contact with rainwater and runoff until further notice. Water testing will determine if additional precautions are necessary.

Today’s emergency proclamation will be ratified by the Board of Supervisors on Sept. 12 at its next regularly scheduled board meeting.

County teams from fire, sheriff, environmental health, public health, transportation, flood, public social services, housing and emergency management are responding to the incident. County teams are working to test the materials, assess the community for health impacts, support shelter operations and restore key access points along 69th Street and Pierce Street in Mecca. The county is working with state and federal partners for support.

Today’s emergency proclamation could help make the county eligible for potential federal and state assistance, including repairs to damaged areas. It also allows the county to quickly procure items necessary for emergency response and repair.

This is a developing situation. As additional information is available, it will be posted on social media. Follow RivCoNow and RivCoReady on social media for the latest information.




Image Sources

  • Thermal berm breach: Riverside County