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OXNARD : Judge to Weigh Offer to Settle in Dunes Case

A Ventura County Superior Court judge on Monday will consider accepting a $200,000 settlement that would release three oil companies from liability for oil waste buried beneath the Oxnard Dunes subdivision.

The city of Oxnard and the subdivision’s developer, Oxnard Shores, have decided to go to court Monday to argue against the settlement offered by oil companies to the 175 residents and property owners who filed a $3-billion lawsuit over the buried waste.

Oxnard City Atty. Gary L. Gillig said it is premature for Mobil Oil Corp., Chevron U.S.A. Inc. and Oryx Energy Co. to settle the case with the homeowners because the city and other defendants may be unfairly burdened with the case.

“We want as many defendants around at the end” as possible if the case is decided in the homeowners’ favor, Gillig said. Attorneys for the city and the developer will argue against the settlement Monday before Superior Court Judge Melinda Johnson.

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Their decision to oppose the settlement has rankled Paul Dolan, a spokesman for the residents and homeowners. “The same people who are stating there is nothing wrong with the Dunes . . . are now coming out and saying that they’re going to oppose the Chevron and Mobil settlement because they have this fear they’re going to be left holding the bag,” Dolan said.

In another development in the complex case, residents and property owners said they plan to press their lawsuit even though state health officials announced last week that the waste poses no hazard to human health.

The soil under the 100-lot subdivision was contaminated by oil waste and sludge dumped into sumps in the late 1950s and early 1960s, said Richard Varenchik, a spokesman for the state Department of Health Services.

Conrad G. Tuohey, attorney for Oxnard Dunes owners and residents, said his clients have scheduled another hearing, which is to be held Dec. 17, for court approval of a $250,000 settlement with a group of McGrath family members that retained mineral rights to the property. The McGrath family previously owned land in the subdivision.

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