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Study Favors Dump Over Shipping Trash : Weldon Canyon: The environmental report says hauling garbage to Utah would foul the air more. Landfill foes are unconvinced.


A final environmental impact report on the proposed Weldon Canyon landfill was released Tuesday, indicating that the project would pollute the air less than hauling the county's trash to a Utah dump by train.

Weldon landfill opponents, however, said most of that pollution would foul the air outside Ventura County, and that hauling the trash by rail would cause less pollution inside the county's borders than would hundreds of trucks driving trash to Weldon Canyon each day.

Scott Ellison, the county planner in charge of the Weldon report, acknowledged that the rail alternative would generate less pollution along the section of its route that runs in the county, but far more along its entire length.

But Ellison said state law requires that any agency building a landfill take responsibility for all the pollution it generates, and to pay mitigation fees that could--in the case of a rail haul to Utah--reach $11 million.

"The (environmental report) finds that it's unfeasible, based on the fact that, overall, rail haul causes more pollution," Ellison said.

Trucks hauling trash to Weldon would emit 32.4 tons of pollutants per year, according to the final draft of the 2,700-page report.

Trains hauling trash to Utah would generate 500.6 tons of pollutants per year--5.4 tons of it inside the county's borders, the report said.

"We don't agree with the analysis (by) the county staff of emissions all the way from Oxnard to Utah," replied Carl Huntsinger, head of the Ojai Valley Assn. for Clean Air. "They're figuring truck emissions from Oxnard to Weldon Canyon. On the other hand, for rail haul, they're figuring the same tonnage from Oxnard to Utah."

Huntsinger's group has been pushing alternatives to a Weldon landfill, such as the Utah-by-rail idea or a proposal to build the landfill in nearby Hammond Canyon instead.

But Ellison said trucks headed for Weldon would generate less air pollution than they would if they were driven another 4.3 miles on Canada Larga Road to reach Hammond Canyon.

The Ojai Valley Assn. for Clean Air is one of several groups that has been lobbying hard against the Weldon project in anticipation of its scheduled June 10 review before the county Planning Commission.

The Coalition to Stop Weldon Canyon Dump, a late entrant to the debate that began more than 15 years ago, has collected about $18,000 and received pledges of about $60,000 for a legal defense fund in case the county approves the Weldon Canyon site, Sara Sackner, the coalition's treasurer, said.

In addition to selling a plethora of "Dump Weldon" T-shirts, bumper stickers and buttons that have become popular in the Ojai Valley, the group flexed its organizing muscle last month by turning out more than 2,000 placard-waving and foot-stomping Weldon landfill foes at a rally at Nordhoff High School in Ojai.

Coalition members say that through a combination of reducing waste, reusing, recycling and composting, landfills can be avoided and municipalities will be able to meet a state trash-reduction mandate. State law requires California cities to reduce waste dumped in landfills by 25% by 1995, and 50% by 2000, or face fines of up to $10,000 a day.

"How can we reduce waste when there's this huge hole?" coalition member Michael Shapiro said of Weldon. "One of our positions is that we don't think there is a need for any landfill in Ventura County. The days of landfills are archaic."

About 120 people attended a coalition meeting Tuesday at the Chaparral Auditorium in Ojai. The group's 10-member executive committee answered questions and encouraged members to continue organizing in the effort to stop the landfill.

In the next two weeks, Shapiro said, the group plans to schedule meetings with each of the supervisors to press its point.

Shapiro said as much as 97% of the county's waste could be eliminated or reused if the county established an all-purpose recycling facility that would automatically separate recyclables from household garbage and transform organic waste into compost.

"This is not some futuristic dream," Shapiro said. "This can be done now. It is an industry on the threshold of something big and Ventura County has the opportunity to grab a large share of the marketplace."

In the interim, the coalition supports hauling the county's trash to Utah by rail, members said.

The city of Ojai opposes the Weldon project and is looking into whether it can file a lawsuit to stop the landfill's construction, City Manager Andy Belknap said.

Belknap said Tuesday that he had not yet seen the report.

"If there are still significant adverse impacts, we'll continue to oppose it," Belknap said.

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