Commercial compost operation proposed in Santa Rosa

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Sonoma County is getting closer to once again having a large-scale commercial composting operation.

Staff at the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency, which is responsible for recycling operations in the county, is recommending partnering with Renewable Sonoma in a new composting operation in Santa Rosa.

Renewable Sonoma is owned by Sonoma Compost, the organization that operated a compost yard atop the Sonoma County landfill from 1993 to 2015, when it was shut down over water quality concerns.

Will Bakx, co-owner and CEO of Renewable Sonoma, said the new venture seeks to create a renewable energy and composting facility next to the Laguna Treatment Plant on Llano Road southwest of Santa Rosa.

The city, which has composting and bio-gas operations of its own at the plant, has previously expressed its willingness to allow a large-scale composting operation to be located on city-owned property around the plant.

Renewable Sonoma is proposing a facility on 13 acres between Llano Road and Walker Avenue, just north of the plant.

The previous 25-acre facility was criticized by neighbors and ultimately sued under the federal Clean Water Act because rainwater leached through its open-air compost piles and ran off into neighboring Stemple Creek.

“We have put together a strong team of local businesses with long commitments to organics processing in the County and are strengthened by national companies,” Bakx said in a release.

The company hopes to strike 20-year lease with Santa Rosa for the land and convince cities to direct their garbage hauler to deliver yard waste and food scraps from curbside green bins to the facility.

The technology the facility will employ is described as “covered aerated static piles and anaerobic digestion” with a capacity of up to 140,000 tons per year.

Currently, all organic material is hauled out of the county to other compost facilities at a cost of about $5 million per year, an expense that will only grow as regulations tighten to increase the diversion of green waste from landfills.

The county Waste Management Agency board is expected to hold a public hearing on August to discuss a formal selection of the company.

Renewable Sonoma emerged at the top a heap of 12 applicants through a process ranking their qualifications, feasibility and compatibility with the county’s needs, marketing plan and cost.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify that agency staff are recommending Renewable Sonoma to the board.

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 707-521-5207 or kevin.mccallum@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @srcitybeat.

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