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U.S. Funds Sought for Pipeline Study

March 23, 1994|TINA DAUNT

Concerned with recent oil spills, Ventura County officials are seeking federal funds to conduct an inventory of local oil pipelines to find danger zones.

"Oil has always been a major issue in this county," Supervisor Maggie Kildee said during board comments at the supervisors' meeting Tuesday. "We need to get a handle on the pipelines. How old are they? How long have they been in place?"

Kildee directed Chief Administrative Officer Richard Wittenberg to secure federal funds for the inventory and return to the board with his findings.

She also requested that Wittenberg form a panel with county officials and oil company representatives to find ways to prevent future spills.

"It should be an interesting study," Wittenberg said.

Over the past three months, three oil spills in Ventura County have raised questions about the reporting system that state officials and environmentalists rely on to safeguard sensitive habitats.

The latest spill, a 30,000-gallon mixture of light crude oil and water, wound its way down a Santa Paula canyon and into the Santa Clara River on Saturday after overflowing from a Unocal storage tank.

In December, 84,000 gallons of thick crude leaked into McGrath Lake near Oxnard after a state park ranger and six other law enforcement agencies ignored early reports of the spill. Bush Oil Co. executives admitted that a pipeline leaked for three days before it was noticed.

And last week, local prosecutors served a search warrant at a Texaco facility in Ventura, suspecting that the oil company failed to report the true extent of a 370,000-gallon release of a petroleum byproduct.

Officials with the state Department of Fish and Game said they believe that the contaminant leaked from a ruptured Texaco pipeline near School Canyon Road north of Ventura.

"There are a lot of old pipelines people have forgotten about," said Supervisor Susan K. Lacey. "Those are the ones we need to look at."

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