Waste Connections, one of country’s largest waste companies, to take over Napa Valley dump sites

Board members of the Upper Valley Waste Management Agency unanimously signed off on the transfer Monday.|

Waste Connections, one of the nation’s largest waste management companies, is set to purchase Napa County’s Upper Valley Disposal & Recycling Service and Clover Flat Landfill, two dumpsites serving the northern Napa Valley that have been owned and operated for decades by the local Pestoni family.

At a meeting Monday, board members of the Upper Valley Waste Management Agency, the body that oversees the area’s waste services, unanimously signed off on the transfer of the existing franchise agreements and ownership.

That clears the way for the two businesses to move forward with the sale.

Christy Pestoni, chief operating officer for Upper Valley Disposal Service, said that with the death of her father and company founder Bob Pestoni last year and faced with evolving state regulations, the much larger Waste Connections would be a “better fit.”

“To further build upon what our family started in 1963, the shareholders of the company, Sylvia Pestoni and Linda Sereni, have decided to close this chapter of our family heritage,” Pestoni said in an Oct. 6 letter asking the Upper Valley Waste Management Agency to approve the sale.

“It is time for a new and stronger partner that will be better poised for California’s future regulatory environment.”

Clover Flat Landfill received recent media attention, including from The Press Democrat, for complaints over polluted stormwater and wildfire risk.

Waste Connections “is a national company with nationwide resources,” Steven Lederer, manager of the Upper Valley Waste Management Agency, wrote in an email Wednesday. “It is therefore considered that they have more resources, both technology and money, to bring to the table as opposed to a single local company.”

Over the years, some local residents and environmental groups have raised repeated wildfire and contamination concerns about the waste sites perched in the Napa Valley hills near Calistoga and St. Helena.

After several fires, repeated violations and a contaminated runoff leakage, Clover Flat Landfill’s contract was put in jeopardy in 2019. The county, along with other local and state agencies, recently gave the site a clean bill of health after a number of upgrades and improvements.

Still, in August, the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance filed a federal lawsuit over unaddressed polluted stormwater discharge and Clean Water Act violations coming from Clover Flat.

The mayor of St. Helena, Geoff Ellsworth, also recently filed a consumer complaint asking the Napa County District Attorney’s Office to investigate wildfire and contamination risks at the two dumpsites.

At the well-attended public meeting Monday, residents voiced guarded optimism for the change in ownership, while still raising concerns about the speed of sale and bidding process and handling of fire and contamination risks, likely to be heightened by climate-fueled wildfires and storms.

“I want to know the plan for the future,” local environmental advocate Chris Malan said.

Waste Connections executive chairman and founder Ron Mittelstaedt acknowledged “the landfill is in an environmentally sensitive and challenging area.”

Still, he said the company had the technology, resources and local knowledge to manage and enhance operations. He pointed to the company’s safety record and “unique” decentralized model where most decisions are made locally.

“Think big, act small,” Mittelstaedt said.

Most of the existing local management team will stay on with the new company. Pestoni will have a new role as director of government and environmental affairs for the area’s operations.

Based in Texas with operations throughout the U.S. and Canada, Waste Connections is the third-largest solid waste management company in North America. In California, Waste Connections has 1,000 employees and works with 30 municipalities through subsidiaries, operating several landfills and recycling facilities in the state.

“The new company has a lot more economy of scale and resources and can hopefully help do a better job,” Ellsworth said Wednesday.

Still, he has the “same concerns” about “stockpiling waste in the middle of your water sources and in the middle of a high wildfire area.”

He noted Waste Connections’ operation of the Potrero Hills Landfill in Solano County that already partners with Napa County for some solid waste disposal as a potential alternative to Clover Flat.

He hopes to raise this and other possibilities with the new owner, he said.

The sale is expected to close by year’s end. Waste Connections accepted an invitation to present its vision for local operations to the Upper Valley Waste Management Agency at a future public meeting.

“In Your Corner” is a new column that puts watchdog reporting to work for the community. If you have a concern, a tip, or a hunch, you can reach “In Your Corner” Columnist Marisa Endicott at 707-521-5470 or marisa.endicott@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @InYourCornerTPD and Facebook @InYourCornerTPD.

Marisa Endicott

“In Your Corner” Columnist, The Press Democrat

Born and raised in Northern California, I'm dedicated to getting to know all its facets and helping track down the answers to tough questions. I want to use my experience as a journalist and an investigator to shine a light on local systems, policies and practices so residents have the information they need to advocate for the changes they want to see. I’m passionate about centering the many voices in the communities I cover, and I want readers to guide my work.

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