Recovery facility approved for Sonoma County landfill

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By approving development of a solid waste sorting and recovery facility at the central landfill on Meacham Road, Sonoma County has taken a key step toward its long-term goal of keeping all refuse out of the ground.

Some details remain to be worked out, but the Board of Supervisors approved a permit for the landfill operator, Arizona-based Republic Services, to build a materials recovery facility inside an existing building at the landfill west of Cotati.

"It's close," said Supervisor Shirlee Zane, chairwoman of the Sonoma County/City Solid Waste Advisory Group.

Republic Services is obliged to build the facility at its own expense under the terms of a 20-year landfill management agreement worth an estimated $547 million.

Opposition from neighbors of the landfill had prompted supervisors to postpone approval of the use permit, which came on a unanimous vote Tuesday.

County officials and a lawyer representing the neighbors said their lawsuit had been settled out of court.

Christina Caro, an Oakland attorney, said the suit had been settled on "mutually agreeable terms" that were "beneficial to both sides."

Caro said she was not at liberty to discuss the details of the settlement, but she said the suit was aimed at the landfill operating agreement between the county and Republic Services, not the recycling facility.

A county staff report said the facility would not change the nature of waste materials arriving at the landfill, and that "no new putrescible waste" would be handled there.

The county and its cities, excluding Petaluma, still must negotiate an agreement by the cities to haul their refuse to the landfill, Zane said.

Once the necessary agreements are in place, Republic will have two years to build the recycling facility.

Sonoma County currently diverts nearly 70 percent of solid waste by recycling, reuse and other means, a rate that is among the top third in the state.

The county's goal is to boost the diversion rate to 80 percent by 2015, 90 percent by 2020 and 100 percent within 50 years.

You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 521-5457 or guy.kovner@pressdemocrat.com.

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