Trial Over County Gravel Project Begins

Charging that the county violated state environmental law in approving a mining project they contend could contaminate Oxnard's water supply, attorneys set out Friday to block the operation.

Lawyers for the city of Oxnard and the Environmental Coalition of Ventura County launched arguments in a trial aimed at overturning the county's approval of the mining project, proposed for a gravel pit north of Oxnard.

The case, which was postponed until Tuesday, involves a proposal by CalMat Co. to excavate up to 6 million tons of rock from an El Rio gravel pit over the next 10 years.

At certain times of the year, the digging would go below the ground water table that supplies drinking water to residents on the Oxnard Plain.

Concerned that the water would be vulnerable to contamination, attorneys for the city of Oxnard and the Environmental Coalition have filed a lawsuit to overturn the Board of Supervisors' approval of the project.

The attorneys allege that Ventura County and the mining company did not follow guidelines set by the California Environmental Quality Act.

Project proponents argue that as long as workers follow proper mining practices, Oxnard's water supply will not be in danger. Additionally, they argue that the county is running out of its local supply of rock, which is ground into gravel and used as building material, and that importing gravel would drive up the cost of building projects.

An attorney representing CalMat and Ventura County said his clients complied with environmental regulations, noting that the project went through two years of review and public hearings.

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