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Due to environmental concerns, a northside Defiance mobile home park has been declared a “public health nuisance.”

The Defiance County Health District Board made the declaration this week based upon the presence of E. coli bacteria found in samples from a field just west of the park. The area is cordoned off with yellow tape after sewage backed up there recently.

According to Health Commissioner Jamie Gerken, the board also requested that the park’s owners abate the nuisance within 14 days. The park is operated by Birch Realty, Jenison, Mich., but the owners (Defiance Partners LLC) may live elsewhere.

The contamination was confined to the back lot — away from the park’s mobile homes — according to Gerken.

Local officials had indicated last week that power to a sewer lift station had failed, thus causing the backup which may have gone on for “weeks” — although the reason is unclear. The power was restored, and resolved the backup issue, but environmental concerns remain throughout the park.

The extremely poor condition of the park’s streets (which are the owners’ responsibility, not the city’s) and the irregularity of trash disposal are among them.

“There are things that are concerning that we want to see rectified,” said Gerken. “I think every entity that’s involved in this wants to see them rectified. ... We want to make sure it’s the safest environment.”

Several other agencies and officials have their eyes on the park as well, from the city mayor’s office to the county prosecutor and the Ohio Department of Commerce (ODC), which licenses mobile home parks.

“We notified the Department of Commerce,” explained Gerken. “They sent an investigator to look at it.”

Three years ago the park owners/operators fell behind on payment of their water bill to the city. Although this was made whole, “they are facing challenges again,” according to one city official.

City leaders have considered issues that could prompt the park’s closure, at least one city official has indicated.

Asked if this might be an option, City Law Director Sean O’Donnell responded that “municipalities do not have the option to ‘shut down’ the license of a mobile home park in the state of Ohio. That authority belongs to the Ohio Department of Commerce. If there is a delinquency, we will follow our ordinances and timelines for nonpayment before shutoff, as we would for any utility customer.”

However, shutting off water service could make it difficult for the park’s mobile homes to meet basic healthy living standards.

Also involved in the discussion about the park’s future is Defiance County Prosecutor Morris Murray, who is the health department’s statutory representative.

“We’ve been asked to consider possible legal remedies with respect to both the public health nuisance issue, as well as concerns that have been expressed because of the long history of criminal activity associated with the property,” he said.

This does not refer to criminal behavior by the park’s owners or operators, Murray explained, but residents who have lived there, some of whom have been prosecuted for crimes such as those related to drug abuse.

An attempt to contact Birch Realty for comment was unsuccessful Wednesday. An email sent to the firm’s website was not returned before this story was completed.

The park is licensed for 81 mobile homes, according to Gerken, while 21 lots were empty as of September. Of the 60 mobile homes there, some could have been vacant, she indicated.

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