A Superior Court judge has blocked the Ventura Regional Sanitation District's purchase of an Oxnard parcel, delaying for about six months the construction of a large trash recycling plant.
Judge Richard D. Aldrich on Thursday ordered the sanitation district to complete a full environmental study of the effects of the recycling plant--and of alternatives to it--before buying 29 acres in an east Oxnard industrial park.
Aldrich said that the district's plan to buy the land for $2.8 million before analyzing the effects of the plant violated state law.
The district argued that buying the property was the first step in a two-tiered process to determine if plant construction was environmentally sound. But Aldrich concluded that statements by district officials showed their true intent.
"These statements . . . imply that the recycling station itself is a foregone conclusion without any environmental impact reports specifically directed to whether or not a recycling station is environmentally sound," the judge wrote.
Aldrich's ruling is a victory for the Channel Islands Beach Community Services District, which alleged in a May lawsuit that the sanitation district had decided to build its plant without evaluating two alternatives by private companies.
The Channel Islands district joined other critics--including several local elected officials--who have maintained that the sanitation district rushed forward with the project to try to keep its share of the rubbish business in Ventura County.
Gerard Kapuscik, general manager of the Channel Islands district, said that he has found a private company, Gold Coast Recycling Center in Ventura, much more efficient than the publicly run sanitation district.
Kapuscik said that his 1,800-home district surrounding Channel Islands Harbor increased its profits from recyclable materials by 84% from 1989 to 1990 by taking the trash to Gold Coast instead of the sanitation district.
"As a result of that we began asking ourselves, 'What's happening in recycling?' " Kapuscik said.
Clint Whitney, general manager of the sanitation district, said Friday that his agency wanted to buy the land quickly because its owner had defaulted on it and the price was very low.
The district represents eight of the county's 10 cities, and a state law requires that cities reduce the trash they place in landfills by 25% by 1995 and 50% by the year 2000.
He said that neither Gold Coast's facility nor one planned by a second private company, Waste Management of America, could be counted on to meet the cities' recycling needs.
"We don't consider this a competition," Whitney said. "We are trying to move forward."