Angela Hart, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Just as Sonoma County’s largest compost company readies to shut down its operations atop the Central Landfill on Mecham Road west of Cotati, county waste officials are ramping up plans to construct a more robust composting site — a new multimillion-dollar facility expected to alleviate environmental pollution issues that have long plagued the current operation.
The future of green waste in Sonoma County reached a turning point Wednesday, when the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency board voted unanimously to require the new facility be built at the county’s 400-acre Central Landfill, just west of the current composting site run by Sonoma Compost, a private company.
“We’re moving forward, and we want to keep our compost local,” said Supervisor Shirlee Zane, who represents the county on waste-related matters. “This is going to ensure it stays local for our farmers and gardeners.”
The county rejected an alternative site on Stage Gulch Road, concluding that the Central Landfill location had fewer negative environmental impacts.
Read more at: Sonoma County approves plans for new compost facility
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
Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Sonoma County’s dominant garbage and recycling company is seeking temporary rate increases of about $1 per month to offset what it says are millions in expected losses from its troubled recycling business.
The Ratto Group is trying to convince local leaders to allow the company to boost garbage rates between 4 percent and 10 percent for its 145,000 residential and commercial accounts in eight Sonoma County cities and the unincorporated county areas.
Though the increase is small, it comes on the heels of a significant rate hike in April related to the recent takeover of the county landfill by Republic Services.If approved, the various increases would raise more than $4.5 million in additional revenue for the company, money it says it desperately needs because the bottom has fallen out of the market for recycled materials.
“We need a little help for a year,” said Eric Koenigshofer, the former county supervisor who represents the company. “Something has happened outside of our community that has had a very significant impact on the financial arrangements we have for providing services to our community.”
The move is in response to what the company says are three major challenges facing its recycling programs.
One is the deeply depressed pricing worldwide for bulk recycled materials, such as the huge bundles of mixed paper, crushed soda cans and cardboard the company ships overseas.
Another is shipping challenges caused by major disruptions at West Coast ports, particularly Oakland. The huge backlog of material created by the work stoppages prevents delivery overseas and depresses prices further. The company’s recycling facilities are literally overflowing with mountains of recycled material that it can’t ship until the logjam is cleared.
Finally, there has been a marked increase in people thoughtlessly contaminating the recycling stream with raw garbage. The problem is more than a little peanut butter stuck to the side of a jar or cheese clinging to the top of the cardboard pizza boxes, company officials said.
Read more at: Garbage hauler Ratto Group seeking rate hike to | The Press Democrat
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.
Brett Wilkison, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A planned recycling facility at the Sonoma County landfill that has been caught up in a lawsuit is set for a second round of public input after its permit hearing before the Board of Supervisors was continued Tuesday.
The project calls for installation of a mechanized solid waste sorting and recovery operation inside the existing transfer station at the central landfill off Meacham Road west of Cotati.
The plans are part of the county’s effort to boost recycling of reusable material now being disposed at the landfill, thereby increasing the site’s lifespan and cutting down on carbon emissions from decaying garbage.
“When we divert more material, we create a cleaner environment,” said Supervisor Shirlee Zane, a strong supporter of the recycling project.
It was packaged within a larger deal approved by the county last year to turn over operation of the landfill to a private operator under a 20-year agreement worth an estimated $547 million.
via Hearing continues on disputed recycling facility at county landfill | The Press Democrat.
Chris Smith, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
If you were at Golden Gate Park’s huge Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival this past weekend you might have seen Mary Munat, in the garbage.
A closer look would have revealed that Munat, a Windsor resident known throughout the Bay Area and beyond as Green Mary, was in fact expending most of her energy and effort on non-garbage.
For more than a decade, her chief reason for being has been to educate, cajole, pester and shame organizers and attendees of large, public events to move aggressively toward generating no trash to be buried in landfills.
via Sonoma County’s ‘Green Mary’ Munat hard at work | PressDemocrat.com.