Concerned that Ventura County's plans to open the long-closed Bailard landfill in Oxnard may pollute underground water, a state regulatory agency has indicated that it may block the move.
After a lengthy hearing Monday, the Regional Water Quality Control Board asked its staff to prepare an order rescinding the Ventura Regional Sanitation District's permit to operate the landfill. A formal vote on the matter is expected at the board's Jan. 25 meeting.
The decision is a crucial one for western Ventura County, where another big dump--the Coastal Landfill in Oxnard--will reach capacity and is due to close early next year. Officials from both the county and the sanitation district have pinned their hopes on reopening the Bailard landfill for as long as five years while the county selects a new dump site to handle the 1,700 tons of trash that west county residents generate each day. The sanitation district leases Bailard from a private owner.
Other Sites Not Feasible
Two other landfills operate in Ventura County. One is run by the sanitation district on Tolland Road near Santa Paula, and the other is privately owned and operated in Simi Valley for east Ventura County residents. Officials say neither is a feasible site for much additional trash--Tolland has limited access, while hauling trash to the Simi Valley Landfill is too expensive.
The county is studying the possibility of allowing a private firm, Waste Management Inc., to open a new dump in Weldon Canyon, near the mouth of the Ojai Valley, but exhaustive environmental studies and permit procedures would not be completed until at least 1990. On top of that, many environmentalists and Ojai residents oppose placing the dump in Weldon Canyon, saying that the estimated 600 truck trips per day would worsen air pollution and leave the pristine canyon open to contamination from toxic substances.
Despite the negative tone displayed by state water board members this week, Ventura County officials say they are optimistic that they can convince the agency to agree to reopen Bailard.
"We're going to make a strong effort. I think we're going to be successful," said Supervisor John Flynn, who represents Oxnard.
Ventura County and sanitation district officials dismiss claims that reopening the landfill might pollute underground water supplies. Both Bailard and Coastal landfills lie near the Santa Clara riverbed on the Oxnard Plain, about 150 feet above aquifers that supply water to residents and farms in the west county.
Flynn said that studies in 1984 and 1986 turned up no evidence of pollution in the Oxnard aquifer. Chemical traces have turned up in groundwater that lies about 60 feet below the landfill, but this water is not used for drinking and officials are unclear whether the contamination is due to the landfill, agricultural chemicals or a combination of both.
Closed in 1979
Bailard was closed in 1979 after racking up numerous violations for exposed refuse, lack of fencing around the site and the operator's failure to secure it from flooding dangers, said Christy Madden, a solid waste planner for the county.
But the dump was never properly sealed with a layer of clay after it was shut down, and district officials, who leased the site in the early 1980s, say it should be reopened so that it eventually can be sealed correctly.
County officials said the Bailard dump, despite not being shut down properly, poses no health or environmental hazards.