Released by: Sonoma County Waste Management
For Immediate Release

Federal Lawsuit Leads to Closure of Sonoma County's Municipal Composting Facility

Frequently asked questions:

What will happen to my green waste?

The green waste will be picked up as it has traditionally been picked up, but now, it will be transferred from the Central Landfill and other transfer stations to composting facilities located outside Sonoma County.

What will happen to my rates?

The Agency will need to raise rates about $25/ton (which is about $1 to $2 per can per month) to cover the costs of transporting the green waste to other landfills and the loss of revenue from composting. One factor in the Agency's decision to enter into the settlement agreement and cease local composting was to avoid raising rates even higher.

Will composting ever return?

The Agency is continuing its work on development of a permanent facility to allow composting to return to Sonoma County for the long term.

I thought the County agreement with Republic took care of all liability for composting so why is this a problem?

The County's agreement did not require Republic to assume liability for existing litigation, like this clean water lawsuit, that was filed prior to the County and Republic entering into their agreement. Additionally, the composting operations are run by the Agency, and are outside the scope of services currently provided by Republic.

Santa Rosa, CA  –  May 22, 2015  –  After extensive efforts to continue its existing composting program at the Sonoma County Central Landfill, the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency Board has reluctantly agreed to settle a federal water quality lawsuit regarding its compost operations that requires closing  compost operations at the Central Landfill in fall 2015. The Agency signed the Settlement Agreement with RENALE and the County today to resolve the lawsuit filed by RENALE against the Agency and the County. The Agreement is available to the public upon request.

The Board recognizes that the decision to close its local composting operation is of particular concern to many in the community, and is committed to finding a site for composting operations within Sonoma County and to build a modern facility that protects the environment. The Board appreciates the value that County residents place on local composting, which reflects the values of environmental stewardship and supports both businesses and individuals in local agriculture and landscaping. However, the Board determined that it was in the best interests of the Agency and the citizens of Sonoma County and its cities to resolve this lawsuit and focus its attention on locating a new, permanent facility that will allow composting to flourish in Sonoma County for the long term.

The decision to settle the lawsuit and as a result end composting at its current location was not reached easily. The Agency spent a great deal of time and money on interim water quality improvement measures that would allow composting to continue until a new permanent facility could be constructed. These included considering the construction  of a second pond to capture storm water runoff from the existing facility. These measures, including construction of the second pond, would have allowed the existing composting operation to operate in compliance with the law and applicable permits. However, threats of additional litigation challenging the second pond meant the Agency could not complete the required infrastructure before next fall, as required by a separate joint defense and indemnity agreement between the Agency and County. The Agency also investigated continuing composting at the current location on a smaller scale, but the costs of proceeding with such an operation and continuing with the litigation were too prohibitive and would have required a very large increase in the fees the Agency charges the public. Therefore, the Agency made the difficult decision to settle this lawsuit, which will end its current composting operation.

The Agency is still committed to continue working on developing a permanent facility for composting within Sonoma County. The Board intends to consider a site for a permanent composting facility at its June 2015 meeting, and once a decision is made on a site, will move forward with the processes required for the development of a permanent composting facility in Sonoma County.

 

Contact: Henry Mikus Henry.Mikus@sonoma-county.org
(707) 328-8105, cell (707) 565-3788, work

 

SCWMA Logo Check the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency website at: http://recyclenow.org for more answers as information becomes available.

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