What’s going on with Napa County waste management, a part of federal investigation into county?

Upper Valley Disposal Service has drawn criticism from some community advocates.|

Read more stories about the federal investigation at pdne.ws/3wEIQko.

The Upper Valley Waste Management Agency, a joint-powers authority responsible for overseeing waste services, including the controversial Clover Flat Landfill, is one of the subjects of federal subpoenas recently received by Napa County officials.

The inquiries are part of an investigation by the FBI and U.S. Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division that are also looking into a contentious local land deal and the county airport’s redevelopment.

Here’s some background on waste services in the Upper Napa Valley:

Considerable criticism

Upper Valley Disposal Service, the company that operated the landfill and another dump site in the area for decades until recently, has drawn considerable criticism from some community advocates.

A key criticism has been that the waste management company, founded and owned by the local Pestoni family, which owns and runs the Pestoni Family Estate Winery in St. Helena among other local ventures, was granted long-term exclusive contracts by officials to serve the area despite a string of fires and contamination incidents.

The family sold the dumpsites to Waste Connections, one of the nation’s largest waste management companies in 2022, but that hasn’t stopped a number of complaints related to working and safety conditions from being filed. Christy Pestoni, former chief operating officer for Upper Valley Disposal Service, now works as part of Waste Connections’ local operations team as director of government affairs.

Worker complaints

In December 2023, 24 current and former employees sent a joint complaint to state regulators accusing the former owner — Upper Valley Disposal Service — of subjecting them to an unsafe and discriminatory environment.

Workers alleged they were exposed to environmental hazards without proper protection or training and were directed to mishandle contaminated wastewater.

A former operations manager at the Clover Flat Landfill, who filed his own complaints last year, said he was wrongfully terminated for speaking up about problems at the waste facilities.

Former ownership previously told The Press Democrat it corrected past violations and invested millions into capital improvements and equipment, and added the landfill had since passed local and state compliance checks.

A Waste Connections official said in December 2023 the company was taking the allegations about past practices seriously. The company had recently resolved some air quality issues and was working on an outstanding violation with water regulators, according to the official.

It is unclear if or how past operation of the Upvalley waste sites fits into the federal investigation targeting the agency in charge of oversight.

What do investigators seek?

The subpoena requests information related to proposals, quotes or bids solicited for waste services by the agency since January 2019. The probe also targets communications between officials about waste management provision and documentation about competition related to waste management in nearby counties.

Alfredo Pedroza, the embattled Napa County supervisor with ties to the controversial land deal, seemingly at the center of one of the other federal subpoenas, serves as the vice chair for the Upper Valley Waste Management Agency.

Other members of the agency board include Scott Cooper representing Calistoga, Lester Hardy for St. Helena, Anne Cottrell for Napa and Yountville Mayor Margie Mohler, who sits as the chair.

Steve Lederer, the recipient of one of the subpoenas, serves as the agency’s manager.

Contact columnist Marisa Endicott at 707-521-5470 or marisa.endicott@pressdemocrat.com. On X (formerly Twitter) @InYourCornerTPD and Facebook @InYourCornerTPD.

Read more stories about the federal investigation at pdne.ws/3wEIQko.

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