SANTA BARBARA COUNTY
Casmalia


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SANTA BARBARA COUNTY
 

Casmalia, California
Population: Less than 200    Location: Near Pacific Ocean between Vandenberg Base & Guadalupe Zip: 93434
 

Casmalia looks, at first glance, to be a scenic and undiscovered gem in which we ask ourselves, "Why isn't this place booming?"  It has rolling hills, plenty of land for growth and it's just a stone's throw from the Pacific Ocean along the California Central Coast.  In reality, the little town of under 200 occupants is known throughout the State of California.  It is known by dozens of cities, public schools, 10,000 businesses and even airlines that have in one way, made this a final destination. 

 

Just over a mile from the location of these photos above, lies one of Californiaa's worst toxic sites ever. It is undergoing clean up and when completed, possibly a decade or two from now,  has the potential of being a thriving place it once was.

Located 10 miles southwest of Santa Maria and  1.5 miles north of Vandenberg Air Force Base, the Casmalia Resources Hazardous Waste Facility accepted commercial and industrial wastes from 1973 to 1989.


During its years of operation, millions of gallons of liquid hazardous waste and millions of cubic yards of solid  hazardous waste were placed in 43 storage/ evaporation ponds, 7 burial trenches, 6 landfills and  3 treatment units at the facility. Since 1992, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has worked to stabilize the site to control actual or potential releases of hazardous substances from the facility. 

 

While there is some dispute as to the chain of events which brought this unfortunate chapter in the life Casmalia  into focus, Greenpeace claimed they received leaked internal documents from the EPA discussing knowledge that the site was a potential hazard.  From inadequate holding tanks to improper mixing of chemicals, the facility offered competitive prices to school districts and other entities that sought  disposal of everything from oils, plating byproducts and freon to medical wastes.

 

Newspaper articles reported  townspeople getting sick and moving away and in this one school town, a principal and his teacher became too ill to teach one day and had to send their pupils home.  Several years in the works now, a clean up process is labor intensive and requires many strategies to meet unexpected challenges.

 

Take, for instance, the endangered red-legged frogs that have made a home at the closed Casmalia Resources toxic waste dump, causing headaches for those trying to clean up nearly 500 million gallons of waste.  A recent survey estimated as many as 300 frogs may be living in ponds at the site. If accurate, it would make the dump home to one of the biggest populations of red-legged frogs in California, experts said.  Attracted to one of the few water sources in the region, deer, coyote, feral pigs, ground squirrels and waterfowl have all been spotted on the property. 

 

As you drive into the town of Casmalia along Casmalia Road, there's a vantage point from which you can see the tops of  houses peaking through the trees.  The sign announcing your arrival includes mention of the Hitching Post Restaurant.  It is known throughout the region for its outstanding meats and fish cooked over special fires using woods for flavor. The restaurant is responsible for attracting visitors to the town which features  a main street (Point Sal Road) where a dog can usually be seen, relaxing in the street. 

 

At the turn of the 20th Century, over 1,500 people lived in Casmalia. Farmers, farm laborers, oil men and railroad workers found  the town's location well suited for their occupations.  Point Sal Wharf had been built close by and Casmalia was one of the last stops before crops and refined products such as sugar were shipped by boats to Los Angeles and San Francisco. Pacific Coast Railway arrived in  Santa Maria and eliminated Casmalia and the Point Sal Wharf from their route which favored  Port Harford (Port San Luis).

 

From relics of the Chumash Indians traced to 9,000 years past at Casmalia Creek or Shuman Canyon, to grazing land for La Purisima Mission, to a thoroughfare for stage coach travel, Casmalia has seen it all.  Residents today are frequently treated to close up views of missile launches from nearby Vandenberg military base. And when space travel becomes affordable, perhaps Casmalia will again become the bustling community it once was since its next door neighbor, Vandenberg, is already involved in commercial ventures to launch satellites and payloads for private companies.  But for now, you'll see houses, a post office/grocery store, restaurant and lots of cows dining on grass in the fields adjacent to Point Sal Road. 

 

 

casmalia map  

Hitching Post  3325 Point Sal Road   Casmalia, CA   805-937-6151

 

Lompoc < Casmalia > Santa Maria