11/29/2012 04:25 pm ET

San Francisco Landfill Contract Dumped Amid Flurry Of Lawsuits

When San Francisco's Board of Supervisors awarded Recology the contract to dump the city's waste in the company's Yuba County landfill last year, it gave the local firm a complete monopoly over all aspects of the city's waste stream.

However, that monopoly may be in jeopardy now. A trio of lawsuits recently caused both parties to throw the 10-year $112 million contract into the circular file.

"It's a victory for all of us," Richard Paskowitz, founder of Yuba Group Against Garbage, told the San Francisco Examiner.

Paskowitz's group, one of the organizations suing the city over the deal, charged that San Francisco neglected to carry out a legally-required environmental review before approving the contract and that the deal also lacked necessary approvals up in Yuba County.

Despite assertions that the contract would pump over $22 million into one of the most economically impoverished regions in the state, many residents of the rural, largely agricultural county were concerned about environmental effects of bringing a 45-car train full of San Francisco's garbage into town three times a week.

"The green stops at the city limits of San Francisco," Paskowitz, who noted he can see the landfill from his home, told the Associated Press. "Our bottom line is not to produce contaminated food that comes down to San Francisco."

Recology initially charged that conducting an environmental review was not necessary before proceeding with the contract.

Even though Recology won the bid to store the city's garbage a over a year ago, the company wasn't scheduled to start dumping San Francisco's waste into its landfill until 2015, when Waste Management's Altamont landfill is predicted to run out of space. Waste Management bid to renewed its contract by shifting to another site, but city officials decided to instead award the contract to Recology.

Last year, a local group that included activist Tony Kelly and and retired judge Quentin Kopp got a measure on the ballot pushing for a major reform of the city's trash collection. However, the bill, opposed by a broad coalition of politicians, labor organizations and environmental groups, ultimately failed to muster sufficient voter support.

Recology Vice President Dave Vaughn told the Marysville Appeal-Democrat that he doesn't expect this setback to prevent the company from ultimately retaining the contract, as trash isn't scheduled to be shipped into the landfill until 2015 and the environmental review will only take about a year to complete. "We've just got to continue on with the process," he explained.