Republic Services will take over operations of a 44-year-old California landfill April 1 for the next 25 years in an estimated $65 million deal that will save Sonoma County from hauling up to 800 tons of waste out-of-county each day.
The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a deal March 3 that will hand over maintenance of its 170-acre Central Landfill to Arizona-based Republic Services. Under the terms of the agreement, Sonoma County will maintain ownership of the landfill, while Republic takes over maintenance.
The deal is years in the making and was almost derailed by concerns over a Clean Water Act lawsuit related to composting activities at the landfill.
Republic declined to comment on this story, but a deal struck at the last minute to absolve Republic from liability related to water quality problems posed by the composting operation put the deal back on track, according to minutes from the Board’s March 3 meeting.
The landfill was initially closed in 2005 due to water violations, and the county tried to sell it to Republic outright until the community protested. Sonoma County Transportation and Public Works Director Susan Klassen says residents don’t want to simply ship out their waste problems somewhere else, and worried about the greenhouse impact transporting all of the county’s waste would create.
Sonoma County already exports about 150 tons of waste per day to out-of-county sites, but that will stop once a 10-acre expansion is completed later this year. The expansion is part of the deal with Republic, along with an incentive program to increase recycling rates.
The Republic deal not only saves Sonoma County from shipping out the 150 tons of waste per day, but is also keeps the county from having the landfill closed completely, which would result in more than 260,000 tons of waste having to be hauled out of the county each year.
But the deal will come at some cost to residents, who will see their curbside collection rates rise about 2.2 percent, plus an increase in wood and yard waste fees later this year, according to county officials.
When the 25-year agreement expires, Republic will provide a transfer station and transportation services for the county at market rates.
In regard to the Clean Water Act violations, the county will protect Republic until the lawsuit is settled, and the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency that runs the composting operation will provide escrow funds for any future liabilities, as well as construct runoff ponds to collect any discharge from the site before it reaches public waterways, according to the county.