SANTA ROSA (KPIX) — The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on Thursday unanimously approved $2.5 million that will be used to remove debris from flood-damaged areas.
So far, state and federal governments haven’t committed to help pay for the massive clean-up from Russian River flooding in Sonoma County. That’s why local officials are stepping up as their constituents face a public health emergency.
“And it’s just so hard for people who just lost everything to walk down the road and just see this trash, which it was not trash just a week and a half ago. Before that, it was all of the things that they lived with every day,” said Sonoma County Supervisor Lynda Hopkins.
Hopkins represents the lower Russian River region that includes some of the low-lying areas that were hit the hardest by the flooding. Thursday morning, she asked her colleagues to approve funding that would help remove the toxic debris that is littering neighborhoods.
“This is critical. We have to get our streets cleaned up so our communities can get back on their feet, said Hopkins. We’re a very resilient community in the lower Russian River. This isn’t the first flood, it won’t be the last. But we do need to address the current health hazards and environmental hazards that are there so we can start getting back together.”
Right now, there are centralized Dumpster locations for residents to drop off uncontaminated debris throughout the county.
Some residents of the Guerneville, Monte Rio and Rio Nido areas have been taking debris to dumpsters at several collection sites, but hazardous waste has been accumulating in the right-of-way and mixed with construction material and solid waste.
The removal of 2,000 tons of debris at drop-off sites will have cost $1 million by Saturday or Sunday, Transportation and Public Works director Johannes Hoevertsz said.
With the approved $2.5 million, debris will soon be picked up directly from the curb.
The debris collection sites will close Saturday, and curbside collection using the county’s provider, Recology, will start Monday.
Sonoma County’s Emergency Services Director Christopher Godley cautioned that there are dangers to curbside collection of large debris materials. He said there have been traffic accidents.
Three Recology teams will work the entire week, but a second collection sweep may be needed, Hoevertsz said.
“We hope to be finished two weeks from now,” he said.
“There were a lot of i’s that needed to be dotted and t’s that needed to be crossed, and I think that we found a path forward,” said Hopkins.
About two dozen people spoke during the two-hour special meeting.
Some said lower Russian River residents are overwhelmed by damage or loss of their homes and properties. Others are concerned about rats living in debris piles spreading to homes and causing an infestation.
“People are walking around in a daze,” one woman said.
Two speakers said some residents just solved the debris problem by dumping it in their yard.
As of now, Sonoma County won’t be receiving any money from FEMA because a federal disaster hasn’t been declared. That would require President Trump to sign a disaster declaration.