Ventura County officials have confirmed that oilfield waste management company Anterra Energy Services, which has facilities in Oxnard and Santa Paula, will no longer be trucking additional waste to the Oxnard location.
The move was taken after it was allowed to temporarily increase truckloads following the Nov. 18 chemical explosion and subsequent suspension of operations at Santa Clara Wastewater near Santa Paula.
At a Ventura County Board of Supervisors meeting on Dec. 16, county staff confirmed that Anterra will no longer be allowed to transfer 64 truckloads of waste per day, returning to its prior cap of 24 trips.
Anterra oversees the only commercial injection wells in Ventura County that can legally dispose of fluids from oil production. The company has faced a series of legal troubles and clashes with the county this past year, including a criminal investigation by the District Attorney’s Office searching for evidence of hazardous waste dumping and other illegal activities.
Reached by telephone, an Anterra spokeswoman declined to comment on the matter; Anterra Energy Services provides services to oil and gas clients in Ventura and Kern Counties.
Chris Stevens, director of the county Resource Management Agency, told the board at its Dec. 16 meeting that Anterra will officially no longer be able to increase its trucking limits as it had been following the Santa Clara explosion.
“That extension has now expired,” he told the board.
The firm was cited by the Ventura County Planning Commission in October for exceeding the standard daily limit of 24 trucks a day. In light of the decreased trucking, the company was forced to lay off 10 employees by mid-November.
The investigation into Anterra is ongoing, but a search warrant obtained by the Ventura County Star in late October indicates that the District Attorney is searching the company’s records for potential evidence of hazardous waste dumping, stating its search for: “Documents…pertaining to the generation, storage, treatment, transportation and/or disposal of produced water, drilling mud, tank bottom wastes, hazardous wastes, and hazardous materials.”
Following the chemical explosion at the Santa Clara Wastewater facility, which left dozens injured from the released hazardous waste, county officials used the incident to draw attention to the operations of Anterra, which some said could suffer a similar incident.
The cleanup of the Santa Clara Wastewater site is ongoing, county officials said.
At a Dec. 9 Ventura County Supervisors meeting, one environmental agency staffer told the board that Anterra does not handle hazardous chemicals. However, Supervisor John C. Zaragoza argued that the facility should not be allowed to keep an increase in trucking operations since the disposed waste could pose a threat to the surrounding community.
“We need to protect our people. We need to protect our residents,” he said. “And I’d rather be safe than sorry.”
Meanwhile, some community members and oil industry representatives came out in defense of Anterra. Sandra Burkhart, senior coastal coordinator for the Western States Petroleum, said the county board should allow Anterra to increase its trucking operations since the chemical that caused the Santa Clara explosion is still unknown.
“We would, as an industry, support Anterra’s request to make additional trips,” she said. “Since there are no facts and we don’t know who is to blame, it would be unfair to blame Anterra for this.”
When some board members argued that disposing the waste in an area with a smaller human population than Oxnard or Santa Paula would be a more viable solution, Burkhart said that the number of people living near a waste facility is just one of many factors.
“Sending trucks to other cities and other counties — it’s increasing risks and just taking it somewhere else… doing it right here locally would probably be the best thing to do today,” she said. “Anytime you’re going to have to transport and go somewhere else, population is just one of the many factors involved.”