Neighbors of Napa County Recycling Center Seek Independent Review

Neighbors of the Upper Valley Disposal Service recycling and compost facility in rural Napa County at 1285 Whitehall Lane, in St Helena, Calif. have complained for years about its odor, noise and lights and are seeking an independent third-party review of its operations. Photo courtesy of Google Maps

A group of Napa County neighbors fed up with odor, noise and light intrusions are pushing for a review of how Upper Valley Disposal Service operates its Whitehall Lane facility. 

About 35 residents, county officials and UVDS representatives met via Zoom Tuesday evening to have what county Supervisor Diane Dillon hoped would be “a productive dialogue” regarding years of complaints about the facility’s impacts on the local community.

Neighbors in the bucolic agricultural area say they’ve endured terrible smells, loud noises and bright lights that intrude on their sleep and prevent them from enjoying their homes and property.

Whitehall Lane resident John Williams said the facility’s impacts are so bad that “you’re ready to sell your property.”  

“This is not a small problem,” Williams said.

Another neighbor, Lauren Pesch, said the odors ebb and flow during different times of the year but “when it’s smelling, it smells really bad.” 

“For the past three or four years, we haven’t been able to enjoy where we live,” Pesch said.  

Some residents said they’ve complained about the facility, which handles recycling and processes compost, to county and company officials but still feel like their concerns are falling on deaf ears and would like an independent third-party to review the facility’s operations.

Christy Pestoni, UVDS chief operating officer, assured the neighbors that the company is working hard to address their concerns and has taken several steps to reduce the facility’s impacts. 

“We’ve made a lot of what we feel are accomplishments in the past 20 months,” Pestoni said, noting that she has met with neighbors a number of times to listen to their concerns.  

The company has taken on a new management team, worked to clean up the facility and added a new aeration system to a holding pond that in the past has been a source of odors, she said. 

She also said UVDS has installed new equipment and improved the way they process grape pomace from the wine industry in an effort to reduce odors and have decided against accepting commercial food waste at the facility, which has been processing recycling since 1963 and compost since 1966.

This year, the company does plan to start accepting residential food scraps equal to 1 percent of the of all the household green waste and grape pomace it processes, which totals roughly 20,000 tons in a typical year.

Pestoni said the residential food scrap program won’t require additional trucks or operating times at the facility.

Also, the company has made changes to the facility’s outdoor lighting and told neighbors that if the lights are still bothering them “to reach out and let us know,” Pestoni said. 

UVDS has also taken steps to reduce some of the noise neighbors have complained about and plans to add more than 200 trees and shrubs around the facility in order to help screen it from nearby homes, she said.

Bryce Howard, the company’s general manager, said they’re looking at additional steps they can take to further mitigate the noise issues. 

“There have been dramatic improvements and there’s still more to do,” Howard said.

Pestoni, who said her family has lived in the neighborhood since 1921, also offered to give people a tour of the facility if they’re interested.

Peter Ex, the county’s solid waste program manager, said the facility’s operations were “trending in a positive direction” and that he will work with the company on a better process for neighbors to report odor issues.

Dillon, the Napa County supervisor, also sits on the Upper Valley Waste Management Agency board, which has some oversight responsibilities for the facility.

She said she would look into to the neighbors’ request for a third-party review of the facility’s operations and get back to them.