Tag Archives: landfill

Sonoma County’s improving economy means more trash 

J.D. Morris, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

CalRecycle spokeswoman Heather Jones said the disposal increase and recycling rate decrease suggested the state needed to continue expanding its recycling infrastructure.

Sonoma County threw away nearly 63,000 tons more trash last year compared with the year before, according to recent figures that indicate the nation’s improving economy hampered local efforts to divert more waste from landfills.

The county disposed of about 386,900 tons of material in 2015, the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency reported last month. That’s an average of 4.3 pounds of waste per person per day, compared to 3.6 pounds per person per day a year earlier.

The latest figures show local waste disposal increased significantly as the economy improved in recent years. The county threw out about 306,100 tons in 2012, and disposal has increased each year since then, according to reports from the waste management agency.

Officials said the disposal uptick was driven by the economic rebound — a factor that fueled a similar increase for the state overall.

As a whole, Californians last year sent 33.2 million tons of material to landfills in 2015, up from 31.2 million tons in 2014, according to the state Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, or CalRecycle. On a per-resident basis, Californians threw away 4.7 pounds per person per day in 2015, as opposed to 4.5 pounds in 2014. The Sonoma County waste figures do not include recycled or composted material, nor do they encompass hazardous waste or trash generated on tribal land, said Patrick Carter, executive director of the county waste management agency.

Waste disposed at county transfer stations increased to about 278,400 tons in 2015, up about 5,000 tons from 2014, according to Carter. The total county figure also includes waste that originated in Sonoma County but was disposed of elsewhere. Carter said the total increase was likely driven by a better economy, which he said could have resulted in more construction and demolition debris as well as more trash from consumer spending.

“When people have no disposable income, they’re not going to be buying things, and they’re not going to be throwing those things away,” Carter said. “But when they’re making more purchases, either they’re getting rid of their old stuff or they’re getting rid of packaging and things like that.”

Read more at: Sonoma County’s improving economy means more trash | The Press Democrat

Filed under Sustainable Living

New compost site scrapped at Sonoma County’s Central Landfill 

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

After nine years and $1 million of study, Sonoma County waste officials say they’re abandoning plans to build a new composting facility at the county landfill west of Cotati.

The Sonoma County Waste Management Agency announced Monday that as part of a legal settlement with landfill neighbors, it would no longer pursue the green waste project, pegged at up to $55 million.

“This is not, I think, government’s proudest moment,” said Don Schwartz, Rohnert Park assistant city manager and an agency board member. “On the other hand, it’s better to spend $1 million than $50 million and not have a good solution.”

Under terms of the settlement, the neighbors will dismiss their lawsuit if the agency votes next month to rescind certification of the environmental report for the project and other documents related to the Central Landfill site.

The decision, which won’t be finalized until an agency board meeting next month, marks the second time in a year that neighbors have successfully blocked a composting operation at the Mecham Road landfill.

Read more at: New compost site scrapped at Sonoma County’s Central Landfill | The Press Democrat

Filed under Agriculture/Food System, Land Use, Sustainable Living

Sonoma County supervisors vote to extend compost agency

Angela Hart, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sonoma County supervisors have voted to extend the beleaguered Sonoma County Waste Management Agency until officials can hammer out a deal to return composting to a local facility and settle a high-profile lawsuit challenging the planned future compost site at the Central Landfill.

The agency, which oversees the county’s multimillion dollar composting operation, will dissolve next February unless representatives from Santa Rosa, Healdsburg and Rohnert Park approve a one-year extension until February 2018. The county and the remaining six cities already have voted in favor of extending the agency operations, which include education programs and collection of yard waste, food scraps and hazardous materials.

Santa Rosa and Healdsburg will take up the matter this month. Rohnert Park voted in January against an extension, but city officials could take up the issue again. Meanwhile, officials said they hope to resolve some points of contention.

“We think we can get the fundamental issues resolved before the sunset date,” said Don Schwartz, Rohnert Park’s assistant city manager, who represents the city on the agency’s board.

The agency has been under fire in recent years for what some county and city officials contend is an inefficient organization plagued with prolonged legal troubles. At issue is construction and operation of a new $55 million compost facility at the Central Landfill on Mecham Road west of Cotati. Sonoma Compost Co., a private company and the county’s former dominant compost provider, was forced to close in October by a settlement of a federal Clean Water Act lawsuit brought by a group of neighbors who live near the landfill. The settlement cost ratepayers more than $1.1 million.

Since the closure, ratepayers have seen increases of about $4 on their monthly garbage bills to pay for the costs of hauling organic matter out of the county, said Patrick Carter, the agency’s interim director.

“We are desperate to bring compost back to Sonoma County — our farmers need it, and outhauling all that waste is not a good economic or environmental solution,” said Supervisor Shirlee Zane, the county’s representative on the 10-member board of directors for the agency. “The question is how do we build a state-of-the-art facility without being subject to lawsuit after lawsuit.”

Read more at: Sonoma County supervisors vote to extend compost agency | The Press Democrat

Filed under Agriculture/Food System, Land Use, Sustainable Living

Sonoma County landfill neighbors sue over site of future compost operation

Angela Hart, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

A group of neighbors near Sonoma County’s Central Landfill west of Cotati are renewing their legal fight against a plan to use the dump as a long-term site for composting green waste, an operation they contend exposes them to foul odors and poses a threat to water and wildlife habitat.

The group, Renewed Efforts of Neighbors Against Landfill Expansion, filed its second lawsuit in less than a year against the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency, this time challenging the environmental review of the future compost site, set to be constructed at Central Landfill.

The 15-page complaint, filed Wednesday, claims the study did not properly analyze impacts on air quality, traffic and endangered California tiger salamander habitat.

“It is clearly flawed — it’s near a school, it’s near neighborhoods and it has traffic problems,” said Roger Larsen, a plaintiff in the lawsuit who lives in the Happy Acres subdivision near the landfill, and who has fought the project for years. “I’ve been watching this for a long time, and problem after problem keeps coming up.”

The lawsuit seeks to have the court shelve the current environmental review and order a new study be prepared. It also seeks to vacate the waste agency’s approval of the new compost site.

Read more at: Sonoma County landfill neighbors sue over site of | The Press Democrat

Filed under Land Use, Sustainable Living

Sonoma County compost operations must end by mid-October 

Angela Hart, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

A hard-fought battle over a Clean Water Act lawsuit — costing ratepayers more than $1.1 million — has spelled the end for Sonoma County’s largest compost producer, Sonoma Compost Co.

Under a settlement reached late Thursday night, Sonoma Compost must shut down operations atop the Central Landfill on Mecham Road west of Cotati by Oct. 15.

“We’re extremely disappointed and frustrated,” said Alan Seigle, who founded Sonoma Compost with his partner Will Bakx in 1993. “We feel horrible for our employees and the citizens of Sonoma County. This is going to have a huge impact all of our customers — particularly the agricultural community and small-scale farmers.”

The lawsuit, brought by Roger Larsen, a resident of the Happy Acres subdivision near the landfill, alleged Sonoma Compost was polluting the nearby Stemple Creek for years. State water regulators confirmed the composting operation had violated the Clean Water Act, and rainwater catchment ponds on the site overflowed at least twice during the last rainy season, contaminating the creek. Regulators threatened the county with fines of $10,000 a day.

The deal, finalized Friday , means the composting site will be gone by October — in time for the rainy season — alleviating the potential that rainwater will hit compost heaps and pollute the creek below. The agreement settles the lawsuit between Sonoma County, the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency and residents who filed suit under a group called Renewed Efforts of Neighbors Against Landfill Expansion, representing about 100 households in the neighborhood.

“I’m very happy the pollution will stop; that’s what the lawsuit was all about,” Larsen said, though he expressed reservations about a potential new composting site.

Read more at: Sonoma County compost operations must end by mid-October | The Press Democrat

Filed under Land Use, Sustainable Living, Water

Supervisors approve private operation of Sonoma County landfill

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

A decade after its Central Landfill was closed by water-quality regulators, Sonoma County officials signed off on a series of agreements Tuesday that represent the final step in an arduous effort to permanently transfer responsibility for the 170-acre dump to a private company.

The new agreements and amendments to existing ones mean the Arizona-based garbage company Republic Services is slated to take over operations April 1 under a 25-year deal worth an estimated $650 million.

“I think this is a good and historic day for the county in terms of what we do with our solid waste going forward,” said Supervisor David Rabbitt, whose 2nd District is home to the landfill west of Cotati.

Supervisors, who voted 5-0 on the package, expressed relief and gratitude to staff that the agreements allowing the deal to move forward had finally been struck. Rabbitt said the effort to privatize operations has been “kind of a tremendous moving puzzle” because of the way the county had to get agreement on a wide range of technical and legal issues from all the cities that send their garbage to the 44-year-old landfill.

Supervisor Shirlee Zane called it a “really fabulous agreement” that brought the county, the waste management agency, Republic and eight of the cities together to reopen the landfill long-term while creating incentive for recycling.

“Our whole goal was let’s take away the financial incentive of putting trash in the hole,” and instead encourage people to reduce and recycle, Zane said. The yearslong effort involved deep research into the best waste practices around the world, she said.

“I think we have turned over just about every single stone or piece of trash in this discussion,” she said.

The handover by April 1 was considered crucial if Republic was to be able to complete a badly needed 10-acre expansion of the landfill before the fall. Failure to complete the new cell by then could force Republic to increase the amount of garbage hauled to other counties until the new work is completed.

Read more via Supervisors approve private operation of Sonoma County landfill | The Press Democrat.

Filed under Land Use, Sustainable Living, Water

Rains send Sonoma County compost operators scrambling to stem runoff

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Most government officials in Sonoma County welcomed the rains that began drenching the region Friday as a much-needed midwinter boost to reservoir levels following an unusually dry January.

But when big winter storms make the barometer fall, Henry Mikus’ blood pressure rises.

The executive director of the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency is under strict orders from state water quality regulators to reduce runoff from the 25-acre composting operation atop Sonoma County’s central landfill.

Rainwater that seeps through the open-air compost piles historically has been allowed to mingle with stormwater from other parts of the landfill, and in significant storms both get discharged into Stemple Creek.

But Mikus, under the threat of fines from the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board and a Clean Water Act lawsuit filed by neighbors, is overseeing an unusual effort to keep the wastewater out of the creek this winter by hauling it via tanker truck to local treatment plants.

“The truth is, it has gone better than anybody expected,” Mikus said of the work to date.

via Rains send Sonoma County compost operators scrambling | The Press Democrat.

Filed under Sustainable Living, Water

Garbage hauler proposes compost operation for Sonoma

Eloísa Ruano González, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

For years, the solid waste hauler Sonoma Garbage Collectors has picked up the city of Sonoma’s trash and green waste for transfer to the county-owned central landfill west of Cotati, where yard trimmings are composted.

The hauler now wants to build its own composting facility in Sonoma Valley to process not only the city’s yard waste but also an assortment of food scraps that would include meats and dairy. The move would divert at least 8 tons of green waste a day from the county’s embattled compost operation, which neighbors have been trying to shut down, advancing complaints about odor and runoff polluting a nearby creek. They filed a federal lawsuit three months ago after the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency decided to keep open the 25-acre compost operation it oversees as it searches for a new site.

John Curotto Sr., president of Sonoma Garbage Collectors, said his family company sees an opportunity to add services for Sonoma customers.

While the county landfill does compost vegetables, it doesn’t take meats or dairy products, such as cheese, according to Ken Wells, a solid waste consultant who was hired to help the Curottos open their facility. That’s discouraged some businesses and residents from recycling food scraps, he said.

“Because there is a limit, that gets a lot of people to hesitate,” Wells said.

The proposed facility would take all food scraps instead of burying them in the landfill, which will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, said Wells, who served as executive director of the county’s waste management agency when it opened its composting operation in 1993.

The Sonoma waste hauler contends that a local composting operation would limit cross-county truck traffic, eliminating loads of green waste to the central landfill.

Read more via Garbage hauler proposes compost operation for Sonoma | The Press Democrat.

Filed under Agriculture/Food System, Sustainable Living

Landfill neighbors sue over compost operation

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Neighbors of Sonoma County’s central landfill who threatened two months ago to file a lawsuit over wastewater from compost piles polluting Stemple Creek have made good on their promise.

The group Renewed Efforts of Neighbors Against Landfill Expansion, or RENALE, filed a federal Clean Water Act suit recently against three entities involved in the 25-acre composting operation atop the landfill.

The goal of the suit is to convince a judge to do what other government agencies are either unwilling or unable to do — shut down the compost operation to protect the creek, said Roger Larsen, a resident of the Happy Acres subdivision on Mecham Road west of Cotati.

“Despite the fact they know they are polluting Stemple Creek, they decided to continue to do so,” Larsen said. “Hopefully, this suit with stop them from polluting Stemple Creek anymore.”

via Landfill neighbors sue over compost operation | The Press Democrat.

Filed under Land Use, Water

Shutdown of Sonoma County’s compost facility averted

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

A shutdown of the composting facility at Sonoma County’s central landfill was averted Wednesday when the public agency in charge of the program voted to continue trying to find a way to solve the water pollution problems plaguing the site.

The alternative facing the 10-member board of the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency was to begin winding down operations before the rainy season and start hauling to other counties the 100,000 tons of yard waste and food scraps collected from residents’ bins every year.

“Do we want to just stop and say, ‘No — no more compost at this point and 100 percent out-haul’?” asked Healdsburg Mayor Jim Wood, the board chairman. “Or do we want to continue working on a plan?”

He said efforts by the agency’s staff and others to find a solution had been “extraordinary” and he felt the work should be allowed to go on. State water quality regulators have tentatively endorsed a plan aimed at minimizing wastewater in the short term while efforts to find a new site for the operation move forward.

via Shutdown of Sonoma County's compost facility averted | The Press Democrat.

Filed under Land Use, Sustainable Living, Water