On April 25, 2008, R.S. Glass—the owner of the Zion Crossroads trailer park—mailed a letter to all his tenants. The site of 30 mobile homes would be closing, it said, due to a failing water treatment facility (privately owned by Glass) that was leaking too much copper and ore into a nearby stream. Rather than spending the money to comply with the state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), the owners were regretfully kicking their tenants out. “All trailers and property…must be removed on or before October 31, 2008,” the letter stated.
The announcement was crushing for the residents who live at the crossing of routes 250 and 15, just east of the Albemarle County line in Fluvanna County. While they pay Glass $250 for the land their trailer rests on, many of the tenants are on the low end of the economic scale—they work at the Preston Shell as cashiers or drive a forklift at a nearby lumberyard. The trailer park is 41 years old, and some of the trailers look to be that ancient. As a result, some must simply be abandoned.
“Maybe I should have notified [the residents], but maybe then they would have moved out,” says Zion Crossroads trailer park owner R.S. Glass.
Other trailers are newer and can be moved, but at costs in the thousands of dollars. The news may have been the worst for those who purchased their trailers in the last few years. Ernest Jackson, for instance, has lived in the trailer park for 15 years, but only last year bought an additional trailer when his daughter and his young grandson moved into his old one. Like other park residents, he is forlorn and feels betrayed, if not outraged.
“If I knew that, I wouldn’t have bought this place,” Jackson says, estimating that he paid around $18,000 for the newer trailer. Many residents think owner R.S. Glass must have known earlier that the private treatment plant was violating water purity standards.
“I found out last month,” says the 81-year-old Glass. In addition to the trailer park, he and his wife own half of the intersection known as Zion Crossroads. A restaurant sits on one corner, a mart on the other. “The state is closing me up. I’m not doing it.”
“They’ve known we had a problem for six years,” says Keith Fowler, a permit manager at the DEQ. In September 2002, the DEQ first cited Glass.
“[T]here is a reason to believe copper and possibly zinc are present…in concentrations that may be toxic when discharged,” the notice read in part. As a result, the DEQ would incorporate limits when the permit was reissued in November 8, 2004. When that permit was issued, Glass was put on official notice that he had four years to comply.
“They probably had as much knowledge of there being a problem as possible,” Fowler says.
During the four years since, Glass only submitted reports saying he was monitoring the copper and zinc levels but gave no indication that he was doing anything about it. So the DEQ contacted the landowner at the beginning of this year reminding them that they had until November ’08 to comply. That’s when Glass informed them that he would be closing the park.
“Maybe I should have notified them, but maybe then they would have moved out,” Glass says of his residents. When the park closes in November, Glass is likely to reap a windfall. A Lowe’s is about to open just down the road. Behind that is a Wal-Mart distribution center. Located just 12 miles outside of Charlottesville and right off I-64, a spot like his is a guaranteed target for development as the surrounding area continues to grow.
By that point, the trailer park residents will be long gone. Jackson is trying to keep from having to move into another trailer park but refuses to abandon his two mobile homes.
“I ain’t leaving nothing,” he says. “Before I leave—to tell you the truth—I will take an axe and break both of them up.”
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