University of Idaho and county intervene on behalf of Syringa residents

MOSCOW, ID - The Syringa Mobile Home Park east of Moscow has been an issue for Idaho's Department of Environmental Quality since January of 2013.

Last December, the problem escalated and the people living there were left with unsafe levels of choline and lead in their drinking water. Right now the DEQ is in the process of suing the property owner.

Rachel Dubrovin explains how the county and the University of Idaho are getting involved to help the people who live there.

"It was time to do something, something had to be done," said Latah County Commissioner Dave McGraw.

McGraw said he became aware of the unsafe living conditions at the Syringa Mobile Home Park last December, when about 300 people were dealing with an unsanitary and unreliable water source.

"When you have that many people getting water that's unsafe to drink, that becomes a public safety concern and that rises to the top of our issues that we need to deal with," said McGraw.

The county has marked many of the trailers with red tags like this to show that it is not a safe environment to live in, and no one is allowed to move back into the unit.

"As the people move out of the homes for whatever reason, we go in," said McGraw. "And about once a week, we go in and red tag whatever trailers are vacant. That prevents people from moving back in."

Commissioner McGraw said it's a way to control the population, in case Syringa is closed down and the remaining residents are rendered homeless.

"People are moving out of the trailer court, and people are looking for other places to live because of the ongoing problems and because of the red tag program," said McGraw.

The University of Idaho's College of Law has a legal aid clinic that's suing the property owner, Magar E. Magar of Vancouver, Washington.

"We have three named plaintiffs in the suit that are residents living out at the Syringa Mobile Home Park," said U of I College of Law General Litigation Clinic Supervising Attorney Jessica Long. "And then what we're hoping is to have this lawsuit be on behalf of all the residents that are living out there. So we're trying to get relief for everyone that lives out there in the form of functioning water system, and a functioning sewer system."

U of I College of Law Professor Maureen Laflin said it's too soon to know the monetary amount attached to the lawsuit but she said it's time for Magar to take responsibility for his property.

"Community groups have been helping provide bottled water, and some of the residents have had to go into town to get water, and to find alternative housing," said Laflin. "And our goal is to get Magar to pay for those services, as well as if these people need to move, he needs to pay for them to move."

Now, Magar is being pressured by the state, the county, and the University's General Litigation Clinic to help the people that are trying to live on this hazardous land.

"I think at this point, something is going to have to happen fairly soon," said Laflin.

Lawyers from the U of I College of Law will serve Magar this week, and he'll have 20 days to respond to their motions.