New City/County Task Force To Explore Alternatives To Landfill Divestiture

The sale of Sonoma County’s solid waste system – Central Landfill and 4 transfer stations, is now off the table, thanks to nay votes by Supervisors Shirlee Zane and Efren Carrillo.  We now have a new opportunity to amp up diversion, minimize generation and move forward on the road to zero waste.

Central Landfill, Sonoma County’s publicly owned disposal site, stopped landfilling operations in 2005 due to liner and leachate issues, and has been exporting to waste out of county landfills for almost 5 years.  For the last 4 years, staff has been working to divest (sell) the solid waste system to a waste firm experienced in landfill management. In October 2009, responding to the community’s strongly expressed desire to keep the solid waste system and landfill in public hands, the Board of Supervisors rejected the planned sale to Republic Services of Arizona and initiated the Sonoma County/City Solid Waste Advisory Group (SWAG), the new community based process introduced a few paragraphs down.

But first they have to deal with other urgent issues – expiring outhaul contracts and inactive landfill closure timelines. In December, the Board of Supervisors directed the staff of the Integrated Waste Division, of the Transportation and Public Works Department to issue a request for proposals for Short-Term Transfer Station Operations, and Transport and Disposal of Solid Waste From County Facilities. Responses are due on March 18. The RFP includes two very interesting options for Central Landfill – resumption of partial operations and re-permitting long-term operations.

The County now has 3.5 months to make another set of crucial interrelated decisions – close the entire landfill – or just the two areas that are full, start accepting trash again, initialize the re-permitting process and expand the current disposal capacity. Each of these decisions represents a grueling, complicated process involving numerous local and state agencies. The Board of Supervisors, County staff and the Water Quality Board all deserve acknowledgement and appreciation for changing direction and preparing to deal with these difficult tasks. 

Working Hard and Fast To Develop Long-Term Community Based Waste Management Strategies

“Zero waste is not going to happen within two years… “
“There is no solution to this unless the cities commit their waste… we cannot finance anything at the landfill without it.”- Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Chairman Paul Kelly, Press Democrat, 12/8/2009.

As expressed by Supervisor Kelly in the quote above, it is believed that to reopen the landfill each of our nine cities must commit their waste stream – in other words flow control. To address this and many other long-term issues, a new task force, the Sonoma County/City Solid Waste Advisory Group (SWAG), is being organized. Utilizing a process borrowed from Santa Barbara County, the SWAG will provide a highly structured community forum to discuss and plan long-term solid waste management strategies. Led by Supervisor Zane, the group will include Supervisor Carrillo and a representative from each city council, assisted by a large advisory group with members from the business community, environmental groups, the Local Task Force for Solid Waste (LTF), city managers and county staff. The new group met for the first time on February 22 and will be meeting on the third Monday of the month from 2-4pm. As per the Brown Act, the meetings must be open to the public, formally noticed, and time must be set aside for public comments. The first meeting was focused on the group’s structure, purpose and guiding principals, as well as timeline and financing.

 This task force is quite an ambitious undertaking. The local zero waste, climate change and other environmental activists, as well as many concerned citizens, are looking forward to the opportunity it represents.

For more information about the SWAG, please call Sonoma County Department of Transportation and Public Works at (707) 565-3580.

EXISTING SONOMA COUNTY SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT STRUCTURE 

The County Integrated Waste Management Division, is responsible for the maintenance of seven closed landfills, the methane gas recovery-electrical generating facility, and four  transfer stations, regulation of commercial refuse haulers, and development, administration and implementation of the Sonoma County Integrated Waste Management Plan.

The Sonoma County Waste Management Agency , the joint powers authority of the nine cities and county, is responsible for the implementation of regional waste diversion programs.  The Agency is staffed by the Integrated Waste Management Division.

The Local Task Force for Solid Waste, advises the Board of Supervisors and the Waste Management Agency and provides a forum for public discussion of solid waste management, waste reduction and recycling issues.

Related Articles: Links embedded…

Recent articles about the Sonoma County Waste Management System

Related Events:

The Climate Impacts of Waste and Local Green Business Opportunities, April 29, Santa Rosa

March 6 and April ZWSC Workshops Will Help Reframe The Challenge

County Waste Management System Discussion, Jan 6, 5-7pm, Envr Center