Burn dump cleanup begins—finally

The Chico Planning Department’s office phones lit up last week when a backhoe, water truck and some workers began moving about on private property on the now-infamous Humboldt Dump.

On Thursday, developer Tom Fogarty launched the first activity on the property since the city adopted and sent a plan to the state, when he rolled out the equipment to begin moving tons of contaminated soil into a cell and then cap it with cleaner dirt.

Neighbors and environmentalists have long kept a wary eye on the land, saying it simply should be fenced off and left alone rather than developed. But after years of debate, planning, more debate and more planning, the city and private-property owners finally have come to a way of cleaning the land and making it suitable, in some folks’ minds, for residential development.

About one-third of the 157 acres that sit in eastern Chico just south of Highway 32 and east of Bruce Road is contaminated with lead and carcinogens left over from dumping and burning refuse on both a city/county operated dump and a number of privately operated dumps that were used through the first half of the last century.

"It’s our understanding that they are setting up and bringing in equipment [to start the cleanup process]," said City Planner Claudia Sigona. "They haven’t breached the soil yet. They’ve only scrapped away the vegetation."