Dump cleanup lurches forth

On Sept. 16, time allowing, the Chico City Council will ask city staff to gather information on how to best implement the initial “step” or “phase” in cleaning up the Humboldt Road Burn Dump and what information would be needed for a future environmental-impact report.

Those words are important in that they represent two approaches to the same task—a local group favors a step approach, the state prefers a phased project. Or as Councilmember Steve Bertagna admitted halfway through discussions at this week’s council meeting, “I’m a bit confused.”

The city finds itself walking a fine line by trying to appease a citizens’ committee, state agencies and landowners who want to develop the surrounding land. Then there is a group of neighbors as well as the parents of children who attend nearby Hank Marsh Junior High who have expressed concerns about stirring up clouds of lead-laden dust during the process.

“We are either going to come to a fairly easy resolution or we won’t come to a resolution at all,” predicted City Manager Tom Lando at this week’s council meeting.

The council will be asking for initial direction and is still a long way from any final decision. By Sept. 16, staff should be able to present the council with some sort of alternative building on the citizens’ committee’s preferred plan, dubbed the Majority Report.

That report would most likely entail cleaning up Dead Horse Slough, which runs through the property and then holding another public meeting before going on to the next steps. The state wants the whole area cleaned, with a plan developed by the city a few years ago that calls for consolidating the contaminated soil into one area and then capping it.

At the same time the council is holding closed-session meetings to discuss the city’s share of liability in paying for the project.

At an Aug. 26 meeting Phil Woodward of the Regional Quality Water Control Board, the lead agency in the project, said the city could indeed do a step-by-step project but at some point there was a good chance the state will sue if it is not satisfied with the progress.