By Daniel Borsuk
Contra Costa County supervisors have reached the end of the road and are finally aggressively moving to adopt an ordinance that’s been five years in the making that might possibly shut down hundreds of illegal solid waste haulers from operating in the county.
Supervisors plan to take up the issue one more time at either their Oct. 17 or Oct. 24 meeting where they could adopt an ordinance establishing regulations aimed at corralling unregulated haulers.
Supervisors on Tuesday, Sept. 26 instructed county attorneys to confer with Scott Gordon, an environmental land use lawyer representing the county’s two authorized trash haulers – Republic Service in Contra Costa County and Garaventa Enterprises – to finalize an ordinance both sides can finally sign.
County Environmental Health Department officials have observed how illegal dumping around the county has worsened.
“Illegal dumping is a countywide problem and the proposed ordinance is meant to help curtail the practice of illegal dumping,” Dr. William Walker, County Health Services Director, wrote in a Sept. 26 report to the board. “CCEH has investigated numerous complaints of illegal dumping. In some instances, unregulated haulers that were hired by private parties to remove refuse, dumped the collected material along roadways or on vacant lots. CCEH has also identified more than 41 illegal solid waste transfer stations, located in both incorporated and unincorporated Contra Costa County, that work directly with unregulated haulers. Unregulated solid waste haulers often go undetected because they dump their collected waste at illegal transfer stations and other unapproved sites.”
Walker also noted illegal transfer stations do not undergo required environmental review or permitting processes and present significant threats to public health and the environment.
“For example,” Walker wrote, “these operations will sort through mixed loads of waste material, remove the valuable material for recycling, and abandon the remainder, dumping it on roadsides, burning it, burying it, or pushing it into creeks. These are safety issues as well, as the Sheriff’s Department has found unregulated haulers transporting poorly-secured loads on county roads.”
With Board Chair Federal Glover absent due to illness, supervisors did agree in open session on some legal issues with attorney Gordon. Among items both sides agreed on during public session were:
- Requiring non-franchised haulers to carry $1 million per occurrence and $1 million aggregate of liability insurance
- A due process for permit revocation
- Curbing theft of recyclable materials from franchise haulers’ commercial bins and curbside totes.
- Implementing an identifiable agency permit requirement.
Safe Drug Disposal Program
In a related issue, supervisors learned the county’s nine-month-old Safe Drug Disposal Program is slowly gaining traction. Adopted by supervisors on Dec. 13, 2016, the Safe Drug Disposal Ordinance was enacted to require drug manufacturers to establish at least three county drop-off sites in each of the five supervisorial districts in locations allowing convenient and equitable access by residents of the unincorporated areas of those districts.
The county ordinance gives preference for drop-off sites to be set up in pharmacies and law enforcement agencies because these are the only two entities that can legally accept controlled drugs like opioid based pain medications.
So far, the county’s Contra Costa Health Center in Martinez is in compliance with the ordinance and “Kaiser has begun to explore the concept at its Antioch location,” Contra Costa County Public Health Director Daniel Peddycord told supervisors.
“Sutter Delta does not currently have a collection bin on site for the disposal of unwanted medications or sharps,” Peddycord said. “We have been informed that due to security and space issues they are not able to consider being part of a stewardship program at this time. John Muir Health provides information on their website regarding the safe disposal of unwanted medication at local law enforcement agencies and sanitation districts.”
The City of Danville has expressed interest in learning more and possibly participating in the county program, Peddycord told supervisors.
Peddycord also noted, “The cities of Clayton and San Pablo responded indicating they have some opportunities for drug disposal at their city police stations.
In other action, supervisors unanimously approved endorsing the vision, goals and objectives of the Bay Area Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy that creates a nine-county regional Economic Development District that is recognized by the United States Economic Development Administration. The ECD will improve county access to economic and workforce related grants and technical assistance from federal and state agencies and private funds.