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Chico Sewage Numbers Spike Post-Camp Fire

The amount of human waste production in Chico has shot up by amounts normally seen over a 10 year period.

Posted: Jan 29, 2019 11:46 AM
Updated: Jan 30, 2019 10:06 AM

CHICO, Calif. - The City of Chico has seen a population explosion, and it's not just the roads that are impacted. Post-Camp Fire sewage production numbers are at an all-time high.

Action News Now reporter Stephanie Lin sat down with Public Works' Eric Gustafson for a closer look at the cause behind all the waste. He reports seeing an average of a million gallons extra per day being pushed through the city's treatment facilities.

"Multiple family members or friends are staying in one household," Gustafson explains, "so that's double the flow from one household but the [charged sewage] rate is still the same." 

The same idea applies to those living in RVs connecting to sewer hook-ups on one shared property. Then there's all the septage from Cal OES, FEMA, and PG&E base camps. Add all these sources together, and you've got one big costly problem. 

"If those increased flows continue, there will be increased costs, and we will have to go to council for increased funds," Gustafson says. 

Chico Public Works is now working on a rate analysis to determine if a rate increase should happen to help with waste processing costs and fixing the 90-year-old underground plumbing system that supports the city. 

Chicoans now pay the lowest sewer rates out of all cities in the area: $22.98 per month. Compare this to Orland's $26.10, Sacramento's $32 and Napa's $42.83. 

Before the fire, Chico's wastewater treatment facility processed about 6 million gallons of waste on average per day. Since then that amount has gone up to 7 million. Biosolid production has gone up 70%, while overall waste and sewage flows are up 17%.

Gustafson tells Action News Now, the facility is able to handle a capacity of 12 million gallons of waste per day. But, the city is currently equipped to take on an amount over a decade of growth, rather than overnight. 

Public Works plans to present their rate analysis to city council late spring. Once that is done, the public will also be able to chime in.
No rate changes will happen until there is at least a 51% approval. Conversations also continue with state legislators to hopefully find a fast fix to the sewage problem.

In the meantime, the work continues to maintain the expected quality of life for Chicoans and their new neighbors.

"We want Paradise folks to know they are welcome in Chico, and hope they can find a bit of normalcy," Gustafson emphasizes.

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 111951

Reported Deaths: 4172
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles550012362
Riverside7486323
San Diego7481269
Orange6261147
San Bernardino5246204
Alameda339096
Santa Clara2776141
San Francisco258842
Kern225038
San Mateo210484
Tulare184484
Fresno174335
Santa Barbara164912
Imperial163427
Contra Costa145037
Sacramento140056
Ventura107833
San Joaquin85834
Kings7464
Stanislaus74429
Sonoma5534
Monterey53010
Solano51722
Marin48314
Merced2837
San Luis Obispo2691
Placer2159
Santa Cruz2132
Yolo21124
Napa1123
Madera1062
Humboldt1013
El Dorado900
San Benito872
Sutter462
Del Norte450
Butte440
Nevada411
Shasta394
Mono371
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Yuba301
Lake210
Inyo201
Amador190
Mariposa161
Glenn160
Calaveras150
Siskiyou70
Colusa50
Lassen50
Tuolumne40
Plumas40
Tehama41
Alpine20
Trinity10
Sierra10
Unassigned00
Chico
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Oroville
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Paradise
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Chester
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A few mountain showers are possible today with highs near 100 in the valley by Wednesday. We cool down again this weekend with a chance of showers.
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