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February 17, 2019
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Cotati Council reviews trash plan

By: Joshua Farestveit-Moore
November 30, 2018

The Cotati City Council met Tues., Nov. 27 to discuss the city’s planned solution to garbage findings its way into rivers and streams.

It’s the requirements from California’s State Water Control Board and Cotati’s upcoming permit renewal to the organization that’s spurring the sudden interest in trash. New rules prohibit the discharge of garbage to surface water. That creates a bit of a problem when the rains come, like now, and water washes away litter into storm drains. Follow those drains long enough and they’ll lead out to rivers and streams.

“It’s something that we can and really need to do,” Mark Landman, Mayor of Cotati, said. “The value is clear to anyone who has ever worked in a creek cleanup and seen the plastic residue, which we can take care of easily.”

Luckily Cotati’s garbage problem is remarkably small. There are only six regions that have been identified by the city as problem areas and the lion’s share of those are commercial properties. They include the Lowe’s shopping center, U Save Liquor, a section of La Plaza Park, a high density residential neighborhood on Santero Way and the Oliver’s shopping center.

The city hopes to solve the Santero Way area with a combination of public outreach and street cleaning. For the commercial properties, though, the solution is more expensive, if easier.

Cotati plans to implement a full capture drainage system using catch basins. The catch basins cover storm drains and gather leaves, litter and other debris in filters as the water pushes it all along, trapping the garbage instead of letting it flow down and out to the rivers.

It’s the price that’s the sticking point. Estimated costs range between $30,000 and $70,000 per each site that needs the attention, depending on which of the three options presented at the meeting the city decides to go with. All of this will come out of the city’s general fund.

“It’s not unusual when the state of California will come up with many new requirements for us—many of them good. But they very rarely come up with extra money for us to pay for them,” Landman said. “This is a good thing and I don’t think it’s going to break the bank. We should be just fine.”

But it’s not as if Cotati has a choice in the matter. Failing compliance can mean a fine of upwards to $10,000 per day while in violation. While that’s a rather hefty bill, it’s not even the worst that could come out of it all.

“Citizens can step in and sue a permittee, or city, when they feel that they aren’t implementing their permits. That tends to be the bigger threat than the fines,” Colleen Hung, senior scientist at West Yost Associates, said.

The city will present the plan to the regional water board in early Dec. After that, the board will give the city a little over ten years to solve its trash problem. The current garbage plan calls for full compliance by Dec. of 2030.