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Oxnard Neighbors Smell Trouble

Sanitation: Plans to open an idled waste treatment plant run afoul of residents already living near facilities that give off strong odors.

September 21, 2002|SANDRA MURILLO | TIMES STAFF WRITER

With neighbors that include two sewage plants, a mushroom farm and a wood-recycling plant, folks in the South Bank area of north Oxnard have endured nauseating smells for years.

So when the Ventura Regional Sanitation District closed one of two nearby waste treatment facilities in July, residents literally breathed more easily.

But now the Montalvo Municipal Improvement District, which owns the property with the treatment facilities, plans to process an increased amount of waste from the idled system.

Oxnard residents and officials would prefer the entire Montalvo site be totally shut down and its pipes connected directly to the Ventura sewer system.

Despite assurances that Montalvo's treatment facilities would not run any waste through Oxnard pipes or handle any restaurant oils and greases, nor human wastes, residents of the neighborhood south of the Santa Clara River are wary the foul smells will return.

"It's still going to be the same problem," said Travis Childress, a South Bank resident.

For years Childress and his neighbors had complained of a rotten odor permeating South Bank.

At any given time, they said, their streets can smell like rotten eggs, grass or worse. Childress said he once had to cancel a barbecue because the stench was intolerable.

"These are smells that will wake you up from the dead," resident Bert Perello said. "I guarantee you if the winds blew through downtown Ventura and they were getting these smells, something would've been done."

At Tuesday's Oxnard City Council meeting, city officials recommended the city oppose even a scaled-down version of the waste treatment facility.

"There are no provisions for odor control or containment," said Mark Norris, the city's waste-water superintendent.

The Ventura Regional Sanitation District has postponed a search for another site for a liquid waste treatment facility. It had considered plans to use the plant to receive some of the Saticoy district's waste, but has not made a decision, sanitation district Chairman David Bury said.

"We're waiting to take future action based on the results of an odor study," Bury said.

Bury said the sanitation district had planned to close the facility next year, but that complaints from area residents forced them to move more quickly.

Some of the smell was traced to a pipe that carried partly treated waste from the district's waste treatment facility in Montalvo to Oxnard's sewage system.

Sewer pipes in north Oxnard, which serve mostly residences, are too small to also handle the extra waste from the Liquid Waste Treatment Facility. So that waste was moved at night when household use was at a minimum.

This, in turn, caused smelly liquid waste to sit all day inside the pipeline and produce gases such as hydrogen sulfide, which can cause eye irritation, sore throats and coughing, shortness of breath, headaches, memory loss, or even death under high levels of exposure.

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