Sonoma County is on the clock once again concerning garbage. After getting bombarded with criticism three years ago for exporting all of the county’s garage by truck to distant counties — while negotiating a plan to sell its landfill — the Board of Supervisors quickly changed directions and reopened the dormant Mecham Road site. But the landfill’s current capacity is scheduled to reach its limit in September — unless the county can come to an agreement on a complex, long-term deal for operating the landfill before then. The supervisors are expected to vote possibly late next month on a 20-year contract handing operation over to Republic Services of Arizona. Under the plan, the county would retain ownership of the facility.
Representatives from Republic told the Editorial Board on Friday that the contract calls for them to take full responsibility for getting a new permit from the state’s North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, to get state approval for expanding it and to take responsibility for closing it when it reaches capacity in 30 years or so.
But in return, Republic wants a 20-year commitment from the county and the cities — excluding Petaluma — to send their garbage to the Mecham site.
The means that between now and September, Republic and supporters of this deal need to finalize the details, get county approval, get approval from each of the cities and then hire a construction team to build the new phase, which will take roughly five months. As former Supervisor Eric Koenigshofer, now a spokesman for the trash hauler Ratto Group, said, “This is the cat-herding phase.”
There are a number of questions that still need to be answered about this deal, particularly concerning the specific diversion rates that Republic will be required to meet. But all in all, it could be a good deal, particularly for the environment. The liner once suspected of leaking has already been fixed, and there’s no further risk of contamination.
And, according to Rick Downey, operations manager for Republic, the new liner will be far better. Usually a site like this would require a single composite liner, he said. But in the case of the planned expansion area of the landfill, there will be two. The total thickness of the new liner: 12 feet. “That means there will be 12 feet between where the garbage is and where potential water is,” he said.
My guess is that’s almost equal to the height of all the reports, contracts and minutes of meetings spent on this issue in recent years.
The state water board is scheduled to vote on the new permit on March 14. Staff is recommending that it be approved.
- Paul Gullixson