Sonoma County's plans to permanently reopen and expand its central landfill cleared a major hurdle Thursday, receiving a go-ahead from North Coast water regulators.
The decision approving a permit for up to 22 more years of operation at the Mecham Road site west of Cotati came from the same state agency that nearly a decade ago raised pollution concerns that triggered a five-year closure of the landfill.
"This thing has gone around the mountain a couple of times," said David Noren, chairman of the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board. "This puts us on a (new) footing with moving forward, to let the past be the past."
The decision came over the objections of some neighbors, who voiced concerns about groundwater contamination, noise and traffic.
Design plans and requirements called for under the expansion should protect against such impacts, county consultants and water regulators said.
Susan Klassen, the county's top public works official, hailed the approval as a "huge step" toward full-scale resumption of in-county waste disposal.
The landfill was closed in 2005 over water pollution concerns. It was nearly sold in 2009 to an Arizona waste processor, a hotly disputed move rejected at the last minute in a dramatic split vote by the Board of Supervisors.
It has been open on an interim basis since late 2010 with a limited capacity to accept local garbage.
A separate go-ahead for a full reopening came last year from the state agency overseeing refuse services.
Next up is a series of county and city decisions geared toward extending current private operations of the landfill and county waste transfer stations for up to 30 years.