Group Files Claim Over Sewage Spill

Angry over an 8,000-gallon spill of raw sewage into their waterside neighborhood, a Channel Islands homeowners group said Friday it has filed a $14.7-million claim against the city of Port Hueneme.

Filed by the Channel Islands Waterfront Homeowners Assn., the claim contends the figure represents damages in the amount of $20,000 for each of the 738 parcels in the association.

The group attributed the damages to estimated reductions in property values due to the discharge and bad publicity, the inability to use the waterways "and actual damages due to hazards to health and well-being yet to be ascertained."

City Manager Dick Velthoen was unavailable for comment Friday.

Such claims are routinely denied by local governments, opening the door to a lawsuit by the filing party.

City Clerk Karen Jackson said the city has received the claim and forwarded it to the city's insurance adjuster for processing.

"It's just business as usual," she said, tempering her statement by adding, "not that we get claims this big every day."

The homeowners group has long objected to the use of Mandalay Bay, which snakes through backyards of hundreds of upscale Oxnard homes, as a settling basin for storm runoff--thus allowing Oxnard, Port Hueneme and the county to meet required water-quality standards for ocean discharge.

"It is essential that the offending storm-drain channel be rerouted so it does not empty into and defile Mandalay Bay," the homeowners group wrote in a letter to Velthoen regarding the claim.

Ventura County health officials have posted warning signs in the area, but Friday rescinded a public advisory against contact with the water.

The spill of 24,000 gallons of untreated sewage occurred Tuesday through a rusted sewer line, officials said.

Though capped within two hours, 8,000 gallons of the spill flowed down a culvert in the Channel Islands Boulevard median and into the bay just north of Victoria Avenue.

On Friday, the county's Environmental Health Division said water-quality samples taken Wednesday and Thursday from Mandalay Bay and the Channel Islands Harbor indicated that bacteriological levels were within acceptable limits.

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