When it rains, water washes over roofs, streets, driveways, sidewalks, parking lots, and land surfaces. Along the way, it can pick up a variety of pollutants, such as oil, pesticides, metals, chemicals, and soil. This polluted stormwater drains into the storm system that eventually discharges into our rivers and streams. The pollutants can endanger the water quality of our waterways, making them unhealthy for people, fish, and wildlife. No matter where you live, there's a drainage system in place to help rainwater find its way to the river.
Managing stormwater in Portland
The federal Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, and Endangered Species Act direct the City to improve stormwater quality and protect watersheds, rivers, streams, and drinking water resources. With the exception of storm drains maintenance, the overall management of the stormwater system is the responsibility of the Bureau of Environmental Services (BES). BES coordinates the citywide response to the federal stormwater permit that requires the City to reduce stormwater pollution, and oversees programs that respond to water quality requirements and promote private stormwater management efforts.
The Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) is responsible for maintaining storm drains and responding to street flooding and other safety concerns. The infrastructure includes 456 miles of stormwater sewer pipe, 878 miles of combined sewer pipe (carries both stormwater and sewage), 58,000 storm drains, and 4,700 miles of streets.
Given the City's limited budget and staff and the size of the infrastructure, PBOT relies heavily on citizen involvement to help keep streets safe and storm drains clean and to notify the City if a higher level of maintenance is needed at a particular location.
How you can help keep storm drains clean
To lessen street flooding, the City asks residents and property managers to help clean the inlets and storm drains in front of your properties. Use a rake or pitch fork to clear leaves, limbs, and debris from the storm drain. Do not put your feet and hands into the storm drain because all kinds of debris collect there that could be dangerous. Do not try to remove the grate, only the debris on top of the grate.
The best time to inspect the storm drains in front of your house or business is prior to a rain event and right after a rain, snow, or ice storm. If you cannot clear a clogged storm drain yourself, notify the City that help is needed. Call 503-823-1700 and report the particular location.
Please do not rake or blow the leaves from your yard into the street. Bag them at the curb in the parking strip and prepare them for curbside pickup by your garbage hauler. The City's leaf removal service is intended solely for leaves that impede stormwater drainage and cause traffic hazards.
For leaves that have fallen into the street, please keep them out of the channel right along the curb, where they will block the path of rainwater. Rake them at least one foot from the curb.
How to prevent neighborhood drainage problems
Water is the most common cause of unstable slopes, landslides, and erosion. Check your home's drainage system. Maintaining the drainage system on private property is the owner's responsibility. Make sure your drainage system directs water away from your foundation and not on to your neighbor's property.
Never discharge water over the side of a steep hill.
Clean your gutters and downspouts. Check your gutters once a week during fall and winter. Just one wind or rainstorm can clog a well-flowing drainage system.
Check your property for signs of earth movement, such as leaning trees, or cracks in the soil and under sidewalks. If you have a problem, contact a soils engineer (see the Yellow Pages, under "Engineers-Geotechnical-Soils") to evaluate the situation.
In general, trees and plants with strong root structures help prevent soil erosion but do not prevent landslides.
Never block any part of the city's drainage system. Do not put leaves, dirt, grass clippings, or any materials in ditches, culverts, or drains. Doing so can cause flooding.
It is against the law to dump any material into the drainage system. To report illegal dumping, call 503-823-1700.