More than a year of ongoing water problems at Meadowlark Community mobile home park has pushed residents to file a lawsuit against the park’s owner, Utah-based Havenpark Communities.
“The water is terrible,” said resident John McDonald. “You can’t shower in it, you can’t wash your dishes in it, you can’t wash your clothes. We won’t even give our pets this water.”
Last winter, Meadowlark residents turned on their taps and found brown and black water pouring out. Montana Department of Environmental Quality investigated and found the minerals iron and manganese in the water — generally considered safe but unpalatable, according to DEQ.
People are also reading…
Discolored water fills the bathtub at the McDonald’s home at Meadowlark in Yellowstone County on Wednesday.
The lawsuit, which was filed Tuesday afternoon in Yellowstone County District Court, seeks to suspend Havenpark from collecting rent from residents until it fixes the water system. It also seeks damages for the disruption caused by having no ready access to clean water and for the money spent by residents to bring in their own clean water.
Resident Gary Deveraux said the water issues have been ongoing for almost two years, stretching back to the fall of 2020 when residents first noticed discolored water. But really, the issues stretch back more than two decades and to the park’s previous owner, the Blains, who were sued in 2000 to fix the park’s water system, Deveraux said.
For most of its existence, Meadowlark Community was Blains Mobile Home Court, situated between the Yellowstone River and the Billings Regional Landfill just off South Billings Boulevard. In 2020, the Blains sold to Havenpark Communities, which christened it Meadowlark.
The new owners have spent the last year trying to fix the problems. Havenpark has acknowledged that Meadowlark has had ongoing water issues, but maintains the water was always safe to drink, despite the color.
Joyce McDonald fills plastic jugs with water at Casey’s Corner along Blue Creek Road in Yellowstone County on Wednesday.
The park runs on well water and much of the discoloration in the water has been caused by old pipes and a broken filtration system, parts for which were supposed to arrive at the park last spring.
“A lot of people are worried out here,” Deveraux said. “A lot of people are concerned.”
Residents are buying drinking water and filling jugs at the gas station on South Billings Boulevard near the park, something that can get expensive quickly. Many have been washing their clothes with the purchased water in their bathtubs or taking their laundry to laundromats.
One couple set up a portable camp shower in their tub in order to bathe with water they’ve brought in. Residents who have washed in Meadowlark’s water complain about rashes and blistering on their skin.
“I just whipped cancer here three years ago,” McDonald said. “I don’t want something in this water to give it back to me.”
Solids are visible after settling out of tap water at the McDonald’s home at Meadowlark in Yellowstone County on Wednesday.
What’s been galling for residents is that for much of the last two years they’d paid their monthly fees to Havenpark that cover water service and water usage, all for water that they can’t use.
Residents have also seen a handful of rent increases since Havenpark took ownership.
Jane Colglazier carries water jugs after filling them at Casey’s Corner along Blue Creek Road in Yellowstone County on Wednesday.
“And they’re gonna raise the rent again (in January) and we can’t even use the water,” said McDonald.
Deveraux has spent much of the last year organizing residents and getting them to speak out about the issues they’ve encountered. He convinced nine of his fellow residents to file the lawsuit and he hopes it will be given class action status by the judge to include all residents at the park.
Get local news delivered to your inbox!
Subscribe to our Daily Headlines newsletter.