Our Future After the Fire: Sewer System Set-up

A working sewer system remains a top priority for the Town of Paradise, but just who will pay for it? Action News Now reporter Stephanie Lin takes a look at what's involved to make the project a reality, and who is footing the bill.

Posted: Jul 4, 2019 6:50 PM

Before the Camp Fire, there were more than 11,000 septic tanks in Paradise. Now as the town rebuilds, plans are back on the table to introduce a working sewer system, to help with economic recovery.

Lok Keobouahom came to Paradise fourteen years ago, taking over his family's restaurant, Sophia's Thai Cuisine. He says his customer base has dwindled since the fire, and his patrons nowadays are a handful of locals, PG&E and FEMA workers. Despite the challenges, Keobouahom says he still plans to stay for the long haul.

"People I know in this town, welcome me like family," he says.

What would help as he rebuilds, Keobouahom says, is a working sewer system. He currently spends thousands maintaining his septic system.

"For the inspection, its yearly, annually, $2600. To pump every six months, $4000 dollars."

A sewer system would get rid of all those fees.

"It's going to save all the businesses, from $4000 to $10,000 a year just for that," Keobouahom says.

Lauren Gill, Paradise Town Manager agrees.

"It's very critical for our economic recovery, to help our businesses, [and] the future of our town," Gill says.

A working sewer system is a topic Paradise town leaders have examined even before the fire. In 2017, a sewer feasibility project was presented to town council for review.

"While your roads are torn up, you're fixing underground utilities, and repairing the water system, now is the time to get the sewer system," Gill says.

The Town Manager adds the plan is to focus first on the downtown and commercial corridors.

"Our business can come back, we can have restaurants and services, and we don't have limitations."

The town aims to cover most, if not all the cost with grant money.

"We will find the right size plant, and the right option for our town, hopefully, get that grant funding and get that in so it's affordable," Gill explains.

For those who live or work inside the proposed sewer project area, any costs not covered by grant funding could fall on them. But, town leaders say, that cost would be up for a community vote before anything is made final.

The Paradise long-term recovery plan estimates a design and build time of three to five years for a working sewer system and a price tag of 60 to 100 million dollars.

The town manager tells Action News Now that affordable housing is also top-of-mind as the town works to rebuild, but construction is dependent on first having a working sewer system in place.

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