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Chico human waste production breaks records post-Camp Fire

Action News Now broke this story and asked Camp Fire leaders if the post-Camp Fire population boom is putting pressure on the sewer system.

Posted: Oct 14, 2019 7:29 PM
Updated: Oct 14, 2019 10:30 PM

CHICO, Calif. - City wastewater treatment workers tell Action News Now they are seeing record-breaking numbers in human waste production.

In December Action News Now reporter Stephanie Lin discovered Chico's wastewater facility processing an extra million more gallons per day on average. That's a 16% increase in human waste production. On Monday, Action News Now learned that percentage has gone down to 10%, or roughly 600,000 gallons extra per day. 

"We anticipate that to be the commonality for many years to come," said City Manager Mark Orme. 

"It is definitely more of a stress on staff to cover everything that's needed at this time," said James Carr, Wastewater Treatment Plant Manager. 

One of the components that will need to be added is an additional secondary clarifier, which would cost the city roughly $14 milion dollars 

"Chico continues to be the support that Paradise, Magalia and Concow need. We are pleased to be that, but we are looking for an opportunity to mitigate the cost," explained Orme. 

The city of Chico saw a 20% population surge shortly after the Camp Fire. There have been no rate increases to make up for the additional strain on waste management staff, water treatment chemicals and day-to-day operational costs of keeping the facility running. 

Should waste production continue at these elevated levels, a sewer rate increase may be introduced. City manager Mark Orme says any increase would first be open for public discussion before implementation. Right now Chico pays extremely low sewer connection rates, he says, at roughly $23 per month. 

Orme also says that roughly $200,000 in relief support has already been allocated to help relieve the cost of wastewater management, but more funding is needed. His team continues to work with Cal OES and FEMA for monetary support, although he acknowledges much of the priority remains on rebuilding Paradise. 

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