SANTA MARIA, Calif. - Community members came to a hearing on the Cat Canyon oil field project proposed for south of the city on Wednesday.
During the hearing, the State Department of Conservation took public comments on the proposed water aquifer exemption.
Dozens of health, environmental and community groups in Santa Barbara County participated in a demonstration just before the hearing.
"I'm a public health professional, and we should put public health first. It's just too risky to be injecting toxic waste into our aquifers," said Candice Kim, director of the Center for Biological Diversity.
Santa Maria City Council Rep. Gloria Soto raised concern that the proposal could drastically expand oil drilling in the county.
"I am here to say as a Santa Maria representative, no," Soto said. "No to the 700 oil wells."
Aera Energy Company public affairs manager Rick Rust said the water is safe because of a barrier between the oil waste and the water.
"The technology for drilling wells includes cement and steel that protects drinking water as we drill down to where the oil is," Rust said.
If the aquifer exemption is declined then all or large portions of the drilling would be greatly restricted.
The Department of Conservation will now evaluate the comments presented Wednesday night, and then forward the application to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for a final decision.