Increased population strains limits of Chico’s sewer system

Oct 21, 2019

HICO — Your toilet tells a story — and if you’re a homeowner, it’s worth listening to.

Did you know the City of Chico’s Waste Water Treatment plant is permitted to treat 12 million gallons per day of wastewater? (Yes, “wastewater” is exactly what you think it is.) It’s sent through the ringer when it arrives at the city’s treatment plant, undergoing a nitrification process and through special, activated sludge.

And that’s after it travels through an underground maze of nearly 300 miles worth of pipes, and drained into gravity-fed collection systems.

On Nov. 8, the day of the Camp Fire, the city’s population grew from approximately 92,000 people to more than 112,000 — overnight. And overnight, the sewer system was working at the highest capacity the city has ever seen.

The city’s average daily flow before the Camp Fire equated to about 5.8 million gallons, said Erik Gustafson, Chico’s Public Works Director of Operations. Immediately following the Camp Fire, that number jumped by more than 16 percent — an increase of about a million extra gallons per day.

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