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Keeping Motor Oil Out of Regions Waterways : Next week marks the beginning of a major countywide program that will provide 50 collection centers.


Oil is in the news here in Ventura County. Or, to be more precise, it's that impossible mixture--oil and water--that's in the news: Oil is polluting our local waters.

Today's Earthwatch is devoted to what you can do about the matter, without getting involved in legislation, litigation or agitation. You can recycle your used motor oil.

It's an important way to help clean up the beach and fight the kind of water pollution described so vividly in the Ventura edition of The Times last Sunday. Recycling is also a way to send a message to Congress, which is discussing an end to the ban on oil drilling in the Santa Barbara channel.

We can "produce" oil by recycling right here in Ventura County. Why drill offshore when we can switch to buying recycled motor oil at Unocal, Chevron, Wal-Mart and other major retailers? They have been selling it for years--without fanfare--and it's guaranteed by the American Petroleum Institute to be as effective in your engine as anything that's currently being dug out of the sea bottom.

Oil is wonderful stuff when it's in your engine, but it's awful stuff after it's been in your engine. Fifty-six million gallons of used motor oil are tossed into California's rivers, streams and storm drains annually, according to this state's Integrated Waste Management Board.

That much improperly disposed oil amounts to about two quarts per Californian per year, a board spokesman said. Two quarts doesn't sound like a lot, but it's just enough to contaminate an amount of fresh water equal to what your home uses each year. And if it goes into the ocean, the result is sick surfers and swimmers.

"It all comes back on you," the spokesman said.

We can also switch to buying re-refined oil, made from the stuff we recycle. Next week marks the beginning of a major countywide civic effort to promote oil recycling, funded by grants from the Waste Management Board.

You'll be seeing ads in local movie theaters, in newspapers and at local retailers urging you to bring in the oil drained from your cars and trucks to any of the county's 50 Certified Used Oil Collection Centers.

Many of them are located at businesses such as Chief Auto Parts, Firestone Stores, Jiffy Lube, Unocal, Wal-Mart, Kragen, Pep Boys and dozens of independent retailers. One telephone call to any auto supply store or service station will probably garner the information you want about oil recycling. Or call the information number listed in today's Earthwatch.

Free used-oil containers, many of which have been made from recycled plastic, are available at some of these sites. So you'll be recycling twice if you take one home, drain your used oil into it and bring it back to the collection center.

Finally, if you happen to notice someone dumping oil in a vacant lot or down the storm drain, call Ventura County Environmental Health at 654-2813--all calls are handled confidentially. It's sad to say, but according to the California Environmental Protection Agency, as many as one in five California households may be dumping motor oil illegally. The good news is that sales of re-refined oil in this state have gone from 6,000 to 50,000 gallons a month in the last few years.

* FYI: You can recycle used oil at 50 locations in Ventura County. Call 654-2496.

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