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Ventura County

$51-Million Sewer Line Proposed for Oxnard

Services: Officials say the new system would accommodate future developments and take care of residents' worries about sewage backup for the next 50 years.


Still fielding a barrage of questions over noxious fumes emanating from an inadequate city pipeline, Oxnard officials have unveiled a $51-million sewer project meant to expand current capacity and satisfy future developments.

Oxnard residents won't need to worry about backed-up sewage waste for the next 50 years once the new sewer is built, said Rob Roshanian, the city's development services manager.

The project, unveiled at a council meeting Tuesday evening, would add a new sewer line from the north end of the city to Oxnard's wastewater treatment facility in the south end by mid-2006.

The new system could accommodate developments now being planned, including the mammoth mixed-use RiverPark project, said Mark Norris, Oxnard's wastewater superintendent.

The new main sewer line would cost $51 million, of which $30.1 million would come from developer fees. The remaining $20.9 million could be funded with 30-year revenue bonds to be repaid through user fees.

The new system would be constructed in three phases, with the first phase beginning by next summer and the final phase ending in 2006.

At completion, the project would have sewer capacity for several developments expected to bring more than 4,900 residential units to town by 2007, including Northwest Community, Northshore Community, College Park, Sea Bridge at Mandalay Bay and West Port at Mandalay Bay, Roshanian said.

If a sewer system is eventually built for El Rio, it would also connect to the new sewer line.

Officials said a new sewer line has been planned for several years and is just one of the improvements the city must make to its wastewater collection, treatment plant and storm water systems at an estimated cost of $305 million by 2025.

"The city is in pretty fair shape from a capacity standpoint," and the line is meant to fulfill future needs, Norris said.

The council voted to have its staff begin exploring funding options for the sewer line.

Discussion of the project came after two weeks of intense pressure from residents of the South Bank area, in north Oxnard south of the Santa Clara River, who appealed to county and city officials to investigate a rotten odor that they said had nauseated them for years.

The bad smell was traced to a pipe carrying partially treated waste from the Ventura Regional Sanitation District's Liquid Waste Treatment Facility in Montalvo to Oxnard's sewage system.

Oxnard officials deny their city's system was faulty.

Because sewer pipes in north Oxnard serve mostly residences, they are too small to also handle the extra waste from the Liquid Waste Treatment Facility, which was forced to move its waste at night when household use was at a minimum.

As a result, smelly liquid waste sat all day inside the pipeline, producing gases such as hydrogen sulfide, which can cause eye irritation, sore throats and coughing, shortness of breath, headaches, memory loss, or even death under extremely high levels of exposure.

For residents, the result was a big stink as well as possible health risks, they said. Some said they would wake up to smells comparable to burning garbage or raw feces.

"I had severe headaches, bronchitis and sinus problems," said resident Roberta Childress, a retired legal secretary who fought to have the pipe closed. "I started getting bloody noses and that worried me." The odor was inescapable, she said.

"It was a severe smell, a rotten egg smell inside our home. It would get worse at night."

The county-run sanitation district stopped operations from the Liquid Waste Treatment Facility earlier this month after numerous complaints. Since then, residents said the smell from the sewage line has subsided.

South Bank residents doubt the city's new sewer plan will be adequate, homeowner Bert Perello said.

Meanwhile, Bill Smith, general manager of the sanitation district, said the agency is scouting for a new site for treating liquid wastes.

Any area in Ventura County could work, he said. However, an area with few home developments would probably be best.

"We don't want to be offensive to anyone," Smith said.

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