Prompted by shrinking landfill space and legislative mandate, county officials and residents successfully reduced landfilled waste and raised recycling rates significantly in recent years.
The county Public Works department oversees public landfills in the county, while independent companies manage waste collection and recycling concessions and operate private landfills. With the passage of the Integrated Waste Management Act of 1989, counties and cities throughout the state are required to create waste management plans, review them every three years, and to meet landfilled waste reduction deadlines of 25% by 1995 and 50% by 2000.
Landfilled waste decreased as recycling rates rose (overlay) between 1988 and 1991. Hazardous waste, metals, cardboard and newspaper are recycled in greatest quantity.
Sonoma County residents reduced the total amount of waste produced in the county by 6.75% and landfilled waste by nearly 15% between 1988 and 1991, while the amount of material recycled rose by 80% during the same period. In 1991, residents and businesses sent 1,360 tons of waste, or 6.84 pounds per capita, to the landfill daily (compared to 8.5 pounds in 1988), over a year's time landfilling 496,647 tons.
The most recent waste composition study indicates the substance being discarded in greatest quantity is paper, at 35%, followed by garden waste at 14%, and food at 12%. Sludge extracted from waste water amounted to 5% of landfilled waste at the time.
The material showing the greatest gain in recycling was plastic, up by 119%. Glass, newspaper and computer paper recycling rates also rose significantly. The rate of oil recycling dropped during the study period by 16%.
The Sonoma County Public Works department reports that reclamation is now at 25% or greater countywide.
Sonoma County Department of Public Works, staff contact Darlene Comingore; Sonoma County Public Health Department, staff contact Jeff Lewin; Sonoma County Solid Waste Management Plan of 1990.
Waste disposal operators hope to attain a constant 60% diversion of solid waste from landfilling by the year 2000 through reduction, recycling, or composting programs, according to the Sonoma County Source Reduction and Recycling Element draft of July 1991, prepared by Brown, Vence and Associates. Even at this rate, a new landfill site will be needed by 2002, when currently operating sites are likely to reach capacity.
An agency network created to manage a "growing problem of illegal disposal of hazardous waste" in the county was found unequal to the task in the Sonoma County Grand Jury Final Report of 1990.
While several county and state agencies are authorized to handle public reports of illegal disposal, the jury found weak points throughout the system--inadequate budgeting, staffing and training, public education, and number of
legal disposal sites--contributing to delays and public frustration. In the case prompting the investigation, workers attending to other emergency duties arrived to clean up crankcase oil dumped onto the shoulder of a road three months after it had been reported.
Investigators said toxic waste is being dumped illegally into local sewers, landfills, and streams, and recommended, in part, that the county create a central toxics hotline to make hazardous waste management agencies more accessible.
The amount of hazardous waste produced and collected in the county appears to be lessening.
The Sonoma County Hazardous Waste Management Plan reported that significant amounts of toxics were moving outside legal waste disposal channels in the county during 1986. Smaller businesses that individually produce less than 1,000 kilograms of hazardous waste a month, and therefore until recently were not required by law to track its disposal, collectively produced an estimated 11,950 tons in the study year. More than three-quarters
of the small-generator waste was used oil, most of it collected in automotive repair; used lead-acid batteries accounted for a little under 15%. Other dangerous substances generated in small quantities in the county included (in 1986) 540 tons of solvents, 80 tons of PCBs and dioxins, and 50 tons of pesticides. Some portion of this waste, researchers say, was dumped into local landfills, storm drains, and sewers. Recyclers say that, statewide, they receive less than half the amount of waste oil actually generated. The data suggest that the remainder--in Sonoma County, more than 2,700 gallons per day in 1986--has been disposed of illegally.
The average household in Sonoma County produced between six and eight pounds of hazardous waste in 1987, according to estimates, discarding up to about 560 tons of toxic cleaners, pesticides, batteries, paint products, automotive products, pool acids, chorine, photo chemicals, and smoke detector elements, most into local landfills.
Researchers estimate that, altogether, about 49,960 tons of hazardous waste was generated during the study year. Geothermal power production was the single largest generator, accounting for two-thirds of the total. Large generators of hazardous waste in the county shipped waste legally to hazardous waste landfills or incinerators within the state in Kings County, and to Illinois and Idaho.
Hazardous materials and hazardous waste spilled 23 times while in transit along Highway 101 or the geysers road between the years 1985 and 1987, according to Caltrans and California Highway Patrol officials. The Regional Water Quality Control Board in 1985 estimated that 29 percent of transportation-related spills of hazardous substances occurring within the Russian River drainage basin found their way into the river directly or through tributaries and storm drains.
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