TARGET 8: Discolored water leads to questioning of landlord obligations

1 year 5 months 2 days ago Monday, July 11 2016 Jul 11, 2016 Monday, July 11, 2016 7:13:00 PM CDT July 11, 2016 in Target 8
By: Meg Hilling, KOMU 8 Reporter & Nina Amedin, KOMU 8 Reporter
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CALLAWAY COUNTY - Residents in a mid-Missouri mobile home park are voicing health concerns and raising questions about the maintenance obligations of landlords.

Numerous residents at Kingdom City's Hatton Hill's Mobile Home Park have reached out to the Target 8 Team with concerns about the state of the water and upkeep of the property by the landlord. 

Resident and single father of two, Brian Winterbower, first became concerned with the water during this year's spring rains, after moving to the park in December 2015.

"My water comes out of my faucet like gray yellowish color, there's always something floating in the water," Winterbower said.

Additional health concerns with the property have included cases of mold and faulty electrical wiring.

According to the lease signed by Winterbower, the "Tenant shall be responsible for arranging for and paying for all utility services required in the premises, except that Landlord shall provide water, sewer and trash."

The lease also stated that regarding repairs and maintenance work, "Tenant will, at his sole expense, keep and maintain the contracted premises and appurtenances in good and sanitary condition and repair during the term of this contact and any renewal thereof." However the lease also stated, "Major maintenance and repair of the constructed premises, not due to Tenant's misuse, waste, or neglect  or that of his family, agent, or visitor, shall be the responsibility of Landlord or his assigns."

Conflict between tenants and landlord

While there is no paper format for filing maintenance requests on the property, Winterbower said he and other residents have contacted both the property manager and landlord on various occasions in an effort to have the water color, mold, and wiring issues addressed to no avail.

"The houses are falling apart, and nobody wants to fix the houses," Winterbower said.

Tabatha Allen and her 9-year-old daughter live two doors down from Winterbower. Allen told Target 8 the condition of the property has left her frustrated as a parent.

"Just disgusted, shameful, and just pissed. I don’t know how to sum it up even more than that," Allen said.

Target 8 reached out to the owner of the property, Harry Lehenbaur, for comment. Lehenbaur said he was unaware of any maintenance-related health concerns.

"This is the first time I’ve heard any concerns," Lehenbaur said. 

Landlord: 'The water is tested every month'

As stated in the lease signed by residents, Lehenbaur is responsible for the water at the park. He told Target 8 the water, which is pumped from his own certified deep well, is tested each month by the Department of Natural Resources. He said it has consistently passed, and any coloring or sediment in the water is due to the fact the water is ground water and is not in any way a health hazard.

"Listen we’ve got hard water, hard hard water, and it’s tested. The water is tested every month," he said.

Lehenbaur said any concerns being voiced are coming from residents who are currently facing eviction charges due to unsettled debts, including Winterbower who went to court on June 27 and has since been evicted.

Winterbower claimed he owes no money to Lehenbaur and regardless of the court decision is moving his family for their health.

"If you respect your family, you respect your morals, you’ve got any type of self esteem, don’t come here this ain’t the place for you," Winterbower said.

Allen, however, says she is not facing eviction.

Target 8 reached out to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources for comment on the water tests conducted at Hatton Hills. No comment was provided.

Target 8 tests water, consults expert

With consent from Winterbower, Target 8 conducted a water quality test of his kitchen faucet with the H20 Ok Plus, a complete water analysis kit that can be purchased at Home Depot.

The kit tested for the levels of total hardness, total chlorine, alkalinity, pH, nitrite, nitrate, copper, iron, coliform bacteria, pesticide, atrazine, simazine and lead.

Below are the results of the tests ran in Winterbower's kitchen. The exact same test was ran in Allen's kitchen, which yielded the same results.

  • Total Hardness: 250 ppm
  • Total Chlorine: 0 ppm
  • Alkalinity: 240 ppm
  • pH: 9
  • Nitrite: safe
  • Nitrate: safe
  • Copper: .6 ppm                                                                    
  • Iron: .5 ppm
  • Coliform bacteria: Not tested
  • Pesticide: Inconclusive
  • Atrazine: Not tested
  • Simazine: Not tested
  • Lead: Inconclusive

Out of the tests run, four of the tests came back with results outside the recommended ranges by the analysis kit.

According to the kit, total hardness should have fallen under 50 ppm, alkalinity should have fallen under 180 ppm, pH should have ranged between 6.5-8.5 and Iron should have come in under .3 ppm.

Target 8 reached out to Dan Obrecht, a research associate with the Missouri School of Natural Resources. Obrecht said the numbers do differ from what is recommended. He said there is a cause for a bit of concern, but he does not suspect any serious health threats.

According to Obrecht the higher level of total hardness, alkalinity, pH, and iron could be attributed to the fact the water is coming from the ground.

One test result that concerned Obrecht was the chlorine level. Given the water comes from a well and is shared by multiple homes, he thought some level of chlorine would have come up in the results.

"If they are disinfecting the well water, I would expect there to be a little bit of residual chlorine. But if you are measuring zero, I wonder if the water is being disinfected, because chlorine would be added to kill off microbes," Obrecht said.

Obrecht advised anyone who might be concerned about the state of his or her water to reach out to the Department of Natural Resources or local health officials in order to conduct testing.

Allen said residents on the property are considering contacting local health authorities to further investigate the property.

"We was planning on calling people out here, ya know to look, hey look at our water, we take baths in this water, we drink this water," she said.

So far no legal actions are being sought against Lehenbaur for the upkeep of the property. 

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