Sonoma County, private operator near $547 million deal to run troubled landfill

For most Sonoma County residents, the garbage goes into the bin and out the door each week almost as an afterthought.

But for nearly a decade that trash — now at about 235,000 tons a year from homes and businesses, excluding recycled material — has created a major financial dilemma for cities and county government.

Together, they face more than $90 million in liabilities for current and former waste sites and the prospect of a continuing pattern of sharp consumer rate hikes to cover those costs, as well as expenses for recycling and other refuse programs.

The latest solution is a 20-year contract worth more than half a billion dollars that would outsource operations of the solid waste system.

It would give control of the county's troubled 42-year-old central landfill west of Cotati to an Arizona company with $8 billion in annual revenue. But it would keep the site, and the county's five waste transfer stations, in public ownership.

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