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Opponents Fail to Halt Expanded Dump Operation

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Thousands of tons of west county trash will continue being dumped at the Toland Road Landfill after a judge Friday rejected a last-ditch attempt by opponents to prevent its expansion.

Lawyers representing farmers, the one-school Santa Clara School District and the cities of Fillmore and Santa Paula failed to convince Superior Court Judge Joe Hadden that an injunction to stop more garbage flowing to the landfill was needed to prevent irreversible damage to the rural Santa Clara Valley.

“Opening this landfill at an expanded capacity . . . is certainly going to increase traffic, it’s certainly going to increase noise in the area,” Hadden acknowledged. But he added that halting the expansion would “impose substantial hardship on the public and increase the overall economic impact and financial impact on the public in general.”

The ruling means the 26-year-old landfill, located between Santa Paula and Fillmore off California 126, can continue to accept about 1,300 tons of trash a day--nearly 10 times the 135 tons it was previously allowed to receive. Trucks began hauling the increased trash to the landfill Monday, two days after the closure of Bailard Landfill near Oxnard.

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“The operation will continue,” said Mark Zirbel, an attorney representing the Ventura Regional Sanitation District, which operates the landfill. “This is the culmination of five years of work.”

Opponents’ only hope now is to win a separate lawsuit filed in March against the sanitation district and county, which approved the landfill expansion. Hadden said his decision would have no bearing on the outcome of that case.

But with a resolution to the suit months away, local residents are steeling themselves to deal with increased traffic, noise and air pollution from the extra 20 to 25 trucks hauling trash to Toland daily.

“We have school starting on Sept. 3--and we’re very apprehensive,” said attorney Martha Buell Scott, who represents the district that runs the historic Little Red Schoolhouse at the corner of Toland Road and California 126. “The school will have to sit down with parents and discuss ways to guarantee the safety of the children--if that’s possible.”

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Nearby farmers say they too are already experiencing difficulties with the landfill expansion. Grower Gordon Kimball said fine particles of dust have begun to show up in fields, which he fears will harm crop production.

Most landfill opponents expressed little surprise at the decision, conceding a lack of hard data existed to support their claims of damage from expanded dumping operations.

“We pretty well realized it was going to happen this way,” said Larry Diamond, an avocado grower who lives within 3,000 feet of the landfill. “It’s tough to shut somebody down.”

But Fillmore City Manager Roy Payne was visibly angry, saying he found it difficult to understand how the judge could fail to consider the harm to the Santa Clara Valley when other garbage disposal options existed.

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“This is a tremendous miscarriage of interpretation of impact,” he said. “There is no harm to [the sanitation district], trash haulers or their customers if Toland is not expanded.”

Still, opponents reaffirmed their intention to continue fighting the dump and remained optimistic they would prevail in the lawsuit if ongoing tests confirm the existence of an earthquake fault on the landfill site.

“It’s not a political decision then,” Diamond said.


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