Final Arguments Heard in Mining Suit

A judge heard final arguments Friday in a lawsuit over an El Rio mining project that environmentalists and Oxnard officials say could contaminate the municipal water supply.

Ventura Superior Court Judge Barbara A. Lane took the case under submission. She must rule within 90 days.

At issue is 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.

Lawyers for the city of Oxnard and the Environmental Coalition of Ventura County filed a lawsuit against the company and Ventura County in January to overturn the county's approval of the project.

Attorneys for Oxnard and the coalition allege the mining company violated guidelines laid out in the California Environmental Quality Act.

Under the plan, at certain times of the year the digging would go below the water table that supplies drinking water to residents of the Oxnard Plain.

Project proponents say as long as workers follow proper mining practices, Oxnard's water supply would not be in danger. They also say county rock supplies are low, and importing gravel for building material in the county could drive up the cost of local building projects.

An attorney for CalMat and the county has said his clients went through two years of review and public hearings, and complied with environmental regulations.

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