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Sonoma County landfill neighbors sue over pollution

  • Rows of composting yard trimmings at the Sonoma County landfill. (PD File)

Neighbors of Sonoma County’s Central Landfill are threatening to file a federal Clean Water Act lawsuit over the pollution they say has been running off compost piles and fouling surrounding waterways for years.

Residents of nearby Happy Acres subdivision say they’ll sue by mid-August unless they can reach a settlement with the county over the wastewater they say is generated by the 35-acre compost operation located at the northern end of the landfill.

“Who would want to live next to a compost facility that’s spewing pollution into the adjacent creek?” said Attorney Michael Lozeau, who represents the group Renewed Efforts of Neighbors Against Landfill Expansion, or RENALE.

The group has already sued to block the installation of a recycling facility at the landfill. That lawsuit was recently settled out of court.

Now the group is targeting the 100,000 tons of soil and compost that Sonoma Compost processes annually from yard waste and food scraps collected from businesses and residences across the county.

The composting operation is well-regarded for its success in diverting organic material from the landfill and turning it into a useful, locally produced product. But the site’s environmental shortcomings have also been well documented.

During significant rainstorms, the wastewater from the large compost piles overwhelms two small storage ponds on site. The tainted water then mingles with regular stormwater from other parts of the Mecham Road landfill and can be discharged into waterways leading to Stemple Creek.

The North Coast Water Quality Control Board has already ordered the county, which operates the landfill and is responsible for water pollution from it, to fix the problem or face fines.

The Sonoma County Waste Management Agency, which oversees the compost operation on landfill space leased from the county, has proposed the construction of a 30-million-gallon storage pond to capture the compost wastewater.

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