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Portland Bureau of Transportation

We keep Portland moving

Phone: 503-823-5185

Fax: 503-823-7576

1120 SW Fifth Ave, Suite 800, Portland, OR 97204

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Sewer Cleaning + Repair

Sewer Cleaning

A home's side sewer runs from the house to the mainline sewer in the street. Maintaining the sewer system is the City's responsibility. Maintaining the side sewer is the property owner's responsibility. It's important to keep roots or other obstructions from blocking a home's side sewer. For repairs to a side sewer backup, look under "Plumbing, Drains & Sewer Cleaning" in The Yellow Pages. 

If there is a heavy storm and sewage backs up through sinks or toilets, call the City’s sewer and drainage maintenance staff at 503-823-1700. City workers will check and remove blockages in the main sewer line. If the problem is the result of too much storm water in the system, you may have to wait until the storm has subsided to have the backup resolved.


Report backed-up sewer at 503-823-1700

Sewer system cleaning, inspection, investigation, and repair are performed year round. A response crew is available for initial investigation from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. every day of the year. 

The nearly 2,500 miles of piped system, over 55,000 storm inlets, and nearly 12,000 sumps are cleaned in cycles by crews using truck-mounted high pressure water jet systems. Some trucks are equipped with a vacuum system used to suck debris from sewer facilities. 

All facilities are inspected on a cycle to determine condition. Sewer inspection is by closed circuit video or by physically entering the system. Entry can be as involved as using entry teams on supplied air systems. With this condition data, the city inventory can be tracked and assessed for repair needs.  

Finding the location or source of a problem is done through visual inspection of sewer pipes, dye testing, and closed circuit video of the sewer main. By videotaping the inside of sewers, crews can determine the source of the problem, nature of the blockage, and condition of the pipe. 

Cleaning crews also locate and mark problems at the surface for repair.


How to prevent serious health problems from a sewer backup

  • Turn off all power to eliminate electrical hazards.
  • Keep children and pets away from the area.
  • Thoroughly clean the contaminated area. Use rubber gloves and disinfectants.
  • Discard saturated wall-to-wall carpet and pad; clean all hard surfaces with hot water and soap, then rinse with a bleach solution of one tablespoon of household bleach to one gallon of water.
  • For more information, call the Multnomah County Health Department at 503-988-3674.

Sewer repair methods

Main sewer repair involves extensive excavation, shoring up supporting walls, removing and relaying pipe and connections, backfilling, and installing plates for temporary cover. Lateral sewer lines which originate from private property and feed into the main line are a typical area for leaks or breaks. Off-road jobs outside the right-of-way require a great deal of  manual work for excavation and hauling materials, rock, and dirt to and from the site. 

Sump and sedimentation manhole installation separates the stormwater from sanitary water, reducing the volume and cost of treatment. Culvert repair diverts storm run-off and minimizes erosion and run-off.  Shoring stabilizes trench walls and protects employees from cave-ins. Shoring also supports exposed utilities until the ground is restored. 

Plastic pipe is a widely used material because it is lightweight and flexible. Its seamlessness makes it a good material for installation in unstable environments. Lightweight materials and compact construction equipment reduce the cost of repair and minimize environmental damage. 

Main sewer construction disrupts a lot of ground. Intense use of space and conflicts with traffic are to be expected. Implementation of new technologies, such as no-dig techniques, ensures that the integrity of the City's infrastructure is maintained.


Who pays for sewer repairs?

The source or location of a sewer problem determines who pays for repair. The City is responsible for the public right-of-way (curb to curb), from one side of the street to another. The property owner is responsible for the area from the curb to the back of their property line. Easements (generally 10 feet wide) where main sewers traverse private property are an exception to this rule. 

In the case of unimproved, gravel, dirt, or abandoned streets, plumbing records are researched by engineers at the Bureau of Environmental Services to determine responsibility.


Vector control

The vector control program responds to reports on rats or mosquito problems. The City will also bait the sewer system to control rodents. 

Contact: Multnomah County at 503-988-3464 or visit