Riverside County Tuesday proclaimed a local emergency due to a retaining berm breach at the Lawson Dump Site on Torres Martinez tribal land near Thermal.
The emergency proclamation will be ratified Sept. 12 by the Riverside County Board of Supervisors at its next regularly scheduled board meeting, according to a statement from the county.
“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 4th 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.”
The San Jose, Vargas and Gamez mobile home parks have been under an evacuation warning since Saturday due to flooding, according to county officials. Evacuated residents can access a shelter with meals and services at the Galilee Center in Mecca.
Water will be tested in the area to determine whether additional precautions will be necessary, but until then residents were asked to avoid contact with rainwater and runoff, county officials said. County teams responded and were testing materials, assessing community health impacts, supporting shelter operations and working to restore access points on 69th and Pierce streets in Mecca.
“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,” Perez said in a statement. “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.”
Supervisors also asked the governor “to provide and request all eligible State and Federal financial assistance to the County and impacted local jurisdictions,” according to the proclamation.
Officials said updates on this “developing situation” will be posted on social media via the handles RivCoNow and RivCoReady.