Posted on Categories Land Use, Sustainable Living, WaterTags , , , , Leave a comment on Sonoma County compost operations must end by mid-October 

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

Posted on Categories Land Use, Sustainable Living, WaterTags , , , , Leave a comment on Supervisors approve private operation of Sonoma County landfill

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.

Posted on Categories Sustainable Living, WaterTags , , , , Leave a comment on Rains send Sonoma County compost operators scrambling to stem runoff

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.

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Sustainable LivingTags , , Leave a comment on Garbage hauler proposes compost operation for Sonoma

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.

Posted on Categories Land Use, WaterTags , , Leave a comment on Landfill neighbors sue over compost operation

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.

Posted on Categories Land Use, Sustainable Living, WaterTags , , , Leave a comment on Shutdown of Sonoma County's compost facility averted

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.

Posted on Categories Land Use, Sustainable LivingTags , Leave a comment on Deal to privatize county landfill operations now before cities

Deal to privatize county landfill operations now before cities

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The fate of a long-sought deal to privatize the operation of Sonoma County’s landfill now rests with the nine cities that are being asked to commit their garbage to the operation for the next 25 years.

Negotiations between the cities and the county over potential future landfill liabilities have dragged on for more than a year, delaying plans for Arizona-based Republic Services to take over the troubled Meecham Road facility long-term.

Santa Rosa, which has taken the lead in those negotiations, is set to be the first city to consider a series of agreements that aim to resolve the outstanding liability issues. The deals could also boost the estimated value of Republic’s proposed contract by more than $100 million.

The Santa Rosa City Council is taking up the complex set of agreements Tuesday night.

via Deal to privatize county landfill operations now before | The Press Democrat.

Posted on Categories Land Use, WaterTags , , Leave a comment on Sonoma County landfill neighbors sue over pollution

Sonoma County landfill neighbors sue over pollution

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Neighbors of Sonoma County’s Central Landfill are threatening to file a federal Clean Water Act lawsuit over the pollution they say has been running off compost piles and fouling surrounding waterways for years.

Residents of nearby Happy Acres subdivision say they’ll sue by mid-August unless they can reach a settlement with the county over the wastewater they say is generated by the 35-acre compost operation located at the northern end of the landfill.

“Who would want to live next to a compost facility that’s spewing pollution into the adjacent creek?” said Attorney Michael Lozeau, who represents the group Renewed Efforts of Neighbors Against Landfill Expansion, or RENALE.

via Sonoma County landfill neighbors sue over pollution | The Press Democrat.

Posted on Categories Land Use, Sustainable Living, WaterTags , , , Leave a comment on Sonoma County composting program faces uncertain future

Sonoma County composting program faces uncertain future

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sonoma County’s 21-year-old composting program could be scrapped if water quality regulators don’t back off a threat to impose stiff fines for runoff that has been fouling a creek near the county’s central landfill for years.

The composting operation, which sits atop the landfill but operates independently, has until Oct. 1 to clean up its act or face millions in penalties in the event a major storm overwhelms the undersized storage ponds at the 25-acre site.

But Sonoma County Waste Management Agency officials say their solution — construction of a massive stormwater holding pond at the north end of the Mecham Road landfill — can’t possibly be designed, permitted and built by October. They say they need relief from the proposed deadline and fines before they can move forward.

If regulators don’t give them either, they warn they may have to shut down the composting operation and begin hauling yard waste out of the county, much like the county did with its garbage when the central landfill was closed by regulators in 2005.

via Sonoma County composting program faces uncertain future | Petaluma360.com | Petaluma Argus-Courier | Petaluma, CA.

Posted on Categories Land Use, Sustainable LivingTags , , Leave a comment on Recovery facility approved for Sonoma County landfill

Recovery facility approved for Sonoma County landfill

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

By approving development of a solid waste sorting and recovery facility at the central landfill on Meacham Road, Sonoma County has taken a key step toward its long-term goal of keeping all refuse out of the ground.

Some details remain to be worked out, but the Board of Supervisors approved a permit for the landfill operator, Arizona-based Republic Services, to build a materials recovery facility inside an existing building at the landfill west of Cotati.

“It’s close,” said Supervisor Shirlee Zane, chairwoman of the Sonoma County/City Solid Waste Advisory Group.

Republic Services is obliged to build the facility at its own expense under the terms of a 20-year landfill management agreement worth an estimated $547 million.

Opposition from neighbors of the landfill had prompted supervisors to postpone approval of the use permit, which came on a unanimous vote Tuesday.

via Recovery facility approved for Sonoma County landfill | The Press Democrat.