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State Still Skeptical on Water Purity at Landfill

December 24, 1987|DENISE HAMILTON | Times Staff Writer

State water officials are uncertain that a countyplan to reopen a huge Oxnard landfill will sufficiently protect underground drinking water. "We're not fully convinced," said Dennis Dasker, a supervising engineer with the state Water Quality Control Board, contending the county must take greater pains to monitor water quality.

The county is seeking an operating permit to reopen Bailard landfill in Oxnard, which lies near the Santa Clara River above aquifers that supply water to Oxnard residents. Bailard was closed in 1975 after accumulating numerous health violations but was never shut down in an environmentally safe manner, county officials say.

Ventura County and Ventura Regional Sanitation District officials want to build a 50-foot mountain of trash on the site.

But the water board has drawn up a tentative order rescinding Bailard's operating permit because of concern over pollution. A final decision is expected at the board's meeting Jan. 25.

Mound of Garbage

At recent meetings with water board engineers, county waste specialists proposed the mound-of-trash idea, saying that it will satisfy environmental regulations requiring sloped landfills. The slopes are designed to prevent water from pooling on the surface or percolating through the layers of debris into ground water.

Hills built of trash are effective because they are less porous than sand or soil, solid waste experts say. Trash is also much cheaper than clay, which could cost as much as $60 million at Bailard.

"What we're trying to say is this will not make it any worse . . . It's another way of saying, 'Let us put trash there,' " said Carole

Engineers Unconvinced

But the proposal apparently failed to sway the water board's engineers, who have requested that the county return with a more comprehensive proposal in early January, Kawamoto said. County and sanitation district officials must convince the water board that reopening Bailard will not have a negative effect on the water supplies beneath the landfill.

Time is running out because the west county's other large dump, Coastal Landfill, is due to close in March, 1988, and there is no other local site for the 1,800 tons of trash that residents of Ventura, Oxnard, Port Hueneme, Camarillo, Somis and Ojai generate each day. District officials are girding for that possibility by considering an 86% increase in tipping fees--the rate that landfill operators charge waste haulers.

At a public hearing Jan. 7, the district board will debate raising fees from $14 to $26 per ton at Coastal and from $14.75 to $20 at Tolland Road, a small dump the district operates near Santa Paula. Trash experts say those increases might lead to a 25% increase for local residents.

Effect on Costs

District officials say they will use the increased revenues to finance the estimated $20-million cost of closing Coastal.

Bailard was operated by a private owner as a municipal dump from 1962 to 1975, when it was shut down because of numerous health infractions. In 1978, the sanitation district contracted with the Bailard estate to open and operate the dump and then shut it down in an environmentally safe manner when full.

The county's other alternative, a proposal by a private firm to open a landfill near the mouth of the Ojai Valley in Weldon Canyon, is at least three years away and still tentative because of pending environmental studies and residential opposition.

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