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6 months after Camp Fire: Debris storage impacts

Where all that non-hazardous waste is bring trucked off to, and how safe the storage process actually is. Hayley Watts reports.

Posted: May 9, 2019 1:33 PM
Updated: May 21, 2021 11:43 AM

"At our stop light here we don't normally see traffic backed up but especially early in the mornings we see traffic backed up all the way to the store" said Bil Patchen, owner of Nu Way Market.

Highway 99 runs right through Los Molinos, and since February, so do roughly 1,000 dump trucks - every day.

"Everybody's welcomed everybody that's had to move here, the only slight complaint I have here is the traffic, we're not used to it! All the dump trucks," said Patchen.

Contracted crews are trucking about 6,000 tons of Camp Fire debris 75 miles each day from Paradise to the landfill in Anderson.

And while the extra traffic is good for business… "A lot of construction crews that come in and get their stuff before they leave," said Patchen.

Some are concerned.

"They tell you it's supposed to be non-toxic but how much is really coming in and how much is actually toxic or not?” asked one woman who lives near the landfill.

The wildfire ash and contaminated soil in the trucks is not technically hazardous.

BUT CalRecycle says it contains tiny bits of dust, dirt, and soot that contain trace amounts of lead, arsenic, asbestos, and other dangerous materials.

The landfill has lined cells to keep it out of the groundwater.

As for the trip to the dump?

The debris is fully plastic wrapped in the dump trucks then tarped before it goes out.

Many who live along West Anderson or Gas Point Road say there are other hazards.

“It's way bad – the cars, the pool, it's inside the house. Not just is it bringing them in but it's like they're bringing part of it out with them with all the dirt and dust on the roads," said one woman.

Shasta County Public Works just issued a permit for Waste Management to get a sweeper out on the roads.

But the mess is just one problem.

"I've witnessed several wrecks on gas Point and West Anderson. I sat there and waited nearly 20 minutes and there's trucks coming from both ways and the truck drivers out there trying to direct traffic. It's horrible," the woman explained.

Several people said they're are ok with the inconvenience - for now.

"It's temporary and it needs to be done; those people need to get back to a normal life and I don't know how long it's going to take them, but it has to be done and we're all understanding of that," said Patchen.

Still, there's a long way to go.

In two months, crews have cleared 1,800 of about 13,000 properties.

That's only about 7 percent complete.

"We understand a lot of it's coming from Paradise but there's landfills in Redding – to us it feels like it's all coming here," a woman from Anderson explained.

The Anderson landfill still has enough space to last about 100 years.

The landfill in Wheatland is also taking on a large share of the waste, and most metal and concrete is recycled in Oroville.

A small amount is going to the landfill in Chico.

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Another disturbance will cross northern California through tomorrow. The biggest effect will be stronger wind in the valley tonight through Thursday. There are no watches or warnings for fire danger, but the wind won't help.
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