Oroville Speaks on Camp Fire Debris Site

Locals in Oroville voiced their opinions on the new proposed Camp Fire debris removal site.

Posted: Dec 28, 2018 5:48 PM
Updated: Dec 28, 2018 5:55 PM

Federal agencies are still looking for a place to put all the non-hazardous debris left behind from the Camp Fire. The latest proposal is the old Kopper Inc. Plant in Oroville.

Should the proposal move forward, locals can expect about 250 trucks carrying non-toxic debris coming southbound on Highway 70 from Paradise. The trucks will then take Opher Road to the processing site.

At Thursday night's hearing at Oroville State Theater, we learned from Cal OES that the EPA has cleared the site as "properly remediated." But many locals shared their discomfort with the idea of a debris site at the former plant location. Toxins released from the Kopper plant during a fire back in 1978 are believed to have caused cancer.

"The EPA had to come in and help clean up dioxin that was there from the old plant," recalls Oroville City Councilmember Linda Draper. 

"If we utilize the site, we will be bringing in soil and material in to ensure we are not disturbing in any way the soil on the site," reassures Eric Lamoureux of Cal OES. "All concrete and metal [brought to the proposed site] have been decontaminated at the fire site before being transported to the final location."

Cal OES also tells Action News Now that all concrete and metal being transported will be, "completely tarped in the trucks," so "no ash or debris is being released from the container itself." 

According to Cal OES, 1.2 million tons of concrete need to be moved from the burn area. The organization must also remove contaminated ash and debris from upwards of 19,000 structures following the Camp Fire. 

But many Oroville residents appear to remain doubtful, citing cancer deaths of family members as enough reason to leave the Kopper plant site, alone. 

Councilmember Draper adds that all the additional traffic coming down Highway 70 would further degrade the roads, which she says have suffered damage from the DWR vehicles following the Oroville Dam Crisis. 

Other residents we spoke with were worried about the noise the new debris facility would bring, which would be on top of the construction sounds coming from the Oroville Dam Spillway. 

"Our overall objective is to build an entire program," explains Lamoureux, "with the facilities we need to move ash and debris within 12 months. We are trying to get the cleanup done as quickly as possible." 

Mayor-Elect Chuck Reynolds, who lost an uncle to cancer connected to the Kopper plant fire, has sat in on discussions with federal agencies. 

"It doesn’t matter to me one way or the other," Reynolds said. "There’s nothing that’s in it for the city, or me. What would be in it for the residents would be employment opportunities."

When it comes to what federal agencies are looking for in a debris removal site, Reynolds says a location near a railroad that is easily accessible and not too far from Paradise, is ideal. 

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