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M.O. car wash with history of contamination slated for county park

web4 carwashdemo march30 byKrivers

Photo by Kimberly Rivers

The former car wash at 211 E. El Roblar Drive in Meiners Oaks on March 30.

By Kimberly Rivers Ojai Valley News reporter

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Demolition of a former self-service car wash and residence on a county-government-owned 2-acre property at 211 E. El Roblar Drive in Meiners Oaks began March 30. 

The site was acquired by the Ventura County government as part of a settlement in a toxic tort lawsuit involving contamination from a nearby Ventura County Public Works utility yard. 

According to county records, the site cleanup wrapped up in 2011. Current preliminary plans are for the property to become a public park. 

“The first step in converting this site to a greater public use is obviously demolition of the existing structures,” said Ventura County Supervisor Matt LaVere, who represents the Ojai Valley in District 1, responding via email to the Ojai Valley News on March 30. “My two priorities for the site are … I want it to be community-serving and … I want the community to be proud of the site as it truly is the entrance to Meiners Oaks.”

On March 8, the Ventura County Board of Supervisors, in its midyear budget adjustment, authorized the allocation of $240,000 for “demolition of two antiquated structures” at the site. The residence was deemed “uninhabitable” and, according to the March 8 agenda packet, the Ventura County General Services Agency recommended demolition of the structures “due to public safety issues on the property, particularly in the areas of building and safety, environmental hazards and security.” 

The demolition work is being subcontracted out to a third party and, according to LaVere, is expected to be completed by the end of April. 

LaVere told the OVN that during his first year as supervisor, he met with Meiners Oaks residents and “the issue of the old car wash site came up for discussion. 

This site is a gateway into the Meiners Oaks community, is owned by the county, and has been an eyesore for quite a while now.” 

He said the idea of it becoming a park was raised. “Given that there are no public parks in Meiners Oaks,” he said he told community members he would “see what was possible.” 

“We are hoping to set up a meeting with Trust for Public Lands to help in determining whether or not a park is feasible at this site,” said LaVere. 

He referenced the work of the Trust for Public Lands at Kellogg Park in West Ventura. “I would love for the Meiners Oaks community to have a similar resource.” 

After a meeting LaVere is planning with the Trust for Public Lands and “some stakeholders in Meiners Oaks … our plan is to engage the greater Meiners Oaks community as to what they would like to see be included on this site.”

web2 Housedemo March30 byKrivers

Photo by Kimberly Rivers

Demolition begins on the residential structure at 211 E. El Roblar Drive in Meiners Oaks  on March 30.

Contamination

According to court records, in 2003, Patrick Rooney, the property owner who lived in the house at 211 E. El Roblar Drive with his wife and six children and operated the car wash, sued Ventura County in federal court after it was determined that fuel tanks at the Ojai Valley County Maintenance Yard property, at 1768 Maricopa Highway — immediately across Maricopa Highway (State Route 33) behind Rooney’s property — had leaked and contaminated the residential property and impacted the groundwater at shallow depths (Patrick Rooney et al. v. County of Ventura et al., United States District Court, Case No. CV03-7526 JFW). 

In 2004, the Los Angeles Times reported that the Rooney family experienced “unexplained rashes, hair loss, respiratory problems and, in the case of Andrea, multiple miscarriages.” (“It’s Out From Under Them,” Holly J. Wolcott, Los Angeles Times, May 11, 2004.) 

According to the article, a doctor ordered the Rooneys out of their home for health reasons. 

Rooney agreed to settle the suit when the Ventura County government offered to purchase his property — both the car wash and the house — for $1.43 million. 

The cleanup and remediation of the contamination plume in soil and groundwater would cost taxpayers $1.490 million. The state reimbursed the county for those costs. 

The contaminants of concern included hydrocarbons, benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene and lead. 

According to county documents and state records held by the California State Water Resources Control Board, when the case was closed, Ventura County government officials informed the state that, even after all cleanup efforts, “benzene has been identified at concentrations exceeding (allowable levels) at three monitoring well locations.” 

However, the 2011 county report states, “Detected benzene in groundwater should continue to decline naturally in a reasonable time frame,” and emphasized that the groundwater impacted was “first encountered” at a much shallower depth than groundwater used for public consumption. 

The affected aquifer was named as “near surface sediments of the Upper Ventura River Groundwater Basin.” 

According to Ventura County Environmental Health documents dated Aug. 26, 2011, “Staff concludes that the residual contamination in soil and groundwater associated with this site should not pose a significant threat to human health, beneficial or potentially beneficial groundwater, or the environment.” 

The report’s findings also indicated that “remediation has been performed to the extent practical,” and that “no enclosed, inhabited structures presently overlie the residual hydrocarbon plume in soil and groundwater.”

“Residual hydrocarbon concentrations in soil and groundwater should continue to decline due to natural attenuation processes,” states the August 2011 county report. 

Due to the finding of no significant threat, the county closed the case at that time.

As for whether any residual contamination may impact the plans for a park LaVere said the project site was remediated according “standards and requirements from the Environmental Health Division that allowed the case to be closed and deemed complete.  That said, any future development, be it park or other, will be subject to environmental review to reconfirm the site is appropriate for public use.”

 

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