by Nick Welsh

After much hand-wringing and second-guessing, the county Board
of Supervisors agreed to allow as many as 150 dump trucks per day
to rumble through Guadalupe to the Santa Maria landfill, where they
will dump as many as one million cubic yards of polluted soil from
the nation’s biggest oil spill. Critics were on-hand in large
measure to decry the lack of public process and to warn that if the
soil is too contaminated to remain on the Guadalupe Dunes — where
it now is — then it’s also too polluted to dump in Santa Maria’s
unlined landfill. Santa Maria city officials endorsed the plan
because it would bring in millions of dollars in dump fees, plus
provide the infill soil needed to cap a landfill that state
officials have been desperately trying to shut down. State and city
officials insist that special protective liners will be placed in
the landfill before the soil. But some critics contend state
water-quality officials had to relax their usual safety standards
to approve the plan.

Others complained the plan — which they said equals one truck
trip every three minutes for five years — never received adequate
review by county officials or residents. That’s because the plan,
and environmental review, took place in San Luis Obispo County,
where the contaminated soil originates. The soil contamination
resulted from Guadalupe’s historic underground oil spill involving
chemical thinners, which took place during a 40-year period.
According to some estimates, that spill is the largest in the
nation’s history. “It’s the largest oil spill in the history of
this country, and this county allowed it [860,000 cubic yards of
contaminated soil] to go in here without an Environmental Impact
Report,” complained Tom Gibbons, one of the activists trying to
derail the plan. Supervisor Joe Centeno — who represents the
area — expressed anguish at the lack of public notice and input,
but like all the supervisors, he agreed there was little the county
could do. What had been submitted to the board for consideration
was an agreement with the City of Santa Maria regarding what routes
the trucks would take, not the entire project.


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