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Flynn Calls for Mandalay Bay Investigation : Oxnard: At issue is whether all traces of a landfill and oil-waste dump were removed before the waterfront housing was built.

November 10, 1991|PATRICK McCARTNEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A county inquiry should be conducted to determine whether the developers of Oxnard's Mandalay Bay safely removed all traces of a county landfill and oil-waste dump before building the luxury subdivision more than 20 years ago, Supervisor John K. Flynn said this week.

Flynn's call for an investigation came after a study by The Times showed that part of the waterfront development west of the Edison Canal in Oxnard was built over the site of two former waste facilities.

The area is less than one mile from the Oxnard Dunes subdivision, where discovery of another oil-waste dump five years ago has led to a still-unresolved $2.8-billion lawsuit by residents.

Old documents have confirmed that the county-run landfill in Mandalay Bay was one of the largest in Ventura County in its day, and was authorized to receive hazardous wastes for two years before its 1955 closure.

But missing are records that show what material was dumped in the Mandalay landfill during the 11 years of its operation, or in the oil-field sump during its five-year history.

The loss of records has left city and county officials unable to say whether a consultant's proposed cleanup plan in 1969 was completed, or if it would meet today's stricter environmental cleanup standards.

Flynn, who 10 years ago opposed the continued dumping of oil wastes at an oil-waste dump north of Mandalay Bay, said the residents need to know of any possible health risks.

"I want to ask county public works and planning, and any private consultant to share with me, the Board of Supervisors and the Oxnard City Council information showing that the situation was recognized and mitigation measures taken," Flynn said.

Saying he does not want to "unnecessarily alarm" Mandalay Bay residents, Flynn said soil tests would only be conducted if the investigation warrants an inquiry.

In a sense, the former county landfill has literally become the garbage dump that time forgot. The landfill and oil-waste sump are not listed in the safety element of Oxnard's General Plan, which is supposed to record former land uses that are potentially hazardous.

Subdivision files for Mandalay Bay retained by the city of Oxnard also omitted any mention of the dumps in the list of conditions imposed on the Oxnard Marina Development Co.

Neither are the facilities included in a list of about 60 former dumps identified by Ventura County's Environmental Health Department, or on its confidential list of 200 rumored dump sites, The Times learned.

The former waste sites also are not listed in a survey of 2,000 known or suspected dumps compiled by the state Regional Water Quality Control Board or in a similar list kept by the state Integrated Waste Management Board.

Word that a dump formerly existed in Mandalay Bay caught current Oxnard officials by surprise.

Despite "allegations" that have surfaced periodically, Oxnard Planning Director Matt Winegar said, "We have not discovered any information to substantiate that there were ever any (dumps) west of the Edison Canal."

Others reacted guardedly. "I'm not overly alarmed yet," Councilman Michael Plisky said. "This type of site has a way of getting blown out of proportion."

Mayor Nao Takasugi and Councilwoman Geraldine Furr, a Mandalay Bay resident, did not respond to requests for comment.

Paul Wolven, Oxnard's city manager from 1952 to 1979, a period in which documents confirm that both dumps were still operating and the time when the area was annexed to Oxnard, expressed strong doubts that the dumps ever existed in the current Mandalay Bay area.

"We weren't aware of any land usage (at Mandalay Bay) besides farmland," said Wolven, who lives in Mandalay Bay.

Even if the location of the dump site had been widely known, cleanup requirements were less strict then, said Tom Laubacher, who represented Oxnard as a Ventura County supervisor when Mandalay Bay was built.

"There was nobody, no Environmental Protection Agency, to say how you had to clean up oil wastes then," Laubacher said.

But with the further development of Ventura County, more evidence of former waste sites and oil spills will continue to surface, Oxnard City Atty. Gary Gillig said.

"It's like an archeological expedition every time you dig," Gillig said, adding that city crews routinely discover old oil leaks, abandoned wells and former oil-storage tanks during street widenings and other projects.

Subdivided between 1969 and 1973 by the Oxnard Marina Development Co., the two phases of Mandalay Bay west of the Edison Canal were built before the introduction of mandatory environmental reviews.

But the former dumps were identified in 1969 through test cores drilled by a consulting firm hired by the developer, Geotechnical Consultants Inc., documents show. The consultants recommended that the landfill material be removed, and the oil waste either be removed or mixed with six parts of clean soil for each part of contaminated soil.

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