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Environmental Services

working for clean rivers

Phone: 503-823-7740

Fax: 503-823-6995

1120 SW 5th Avenue, Room 1000, Portland, OR 97204

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Clean River Tips

You can help keep our rivers and streams healthy. It’s easy to do! Read on to learn how you and your family can contribute to cleaner, healthier rivers and streams in Portland.

Would You Dump it in the River?

Many household chemicals, fluids from vehicles, fertilizers and pesticides can be harmful to wildlife, fish and ecosystems if they reach our rivers and streams. Be mindful about using these substances and how you dispose of them. Would you dump it in the river? If not, don’t dump it down the drain! Tips:

  • Dispose of paint or other potentially harmful household supplies appropriately – not down the drain, on the ground or in a storm drain.
  • Recycle used motor oil – visit OregonMetro.gov to learn more.
  • Use non-toxic alternatives to home cleaning chemicals.

Creating a Healthier Yard

Trees and vegetation are an important part of the City’s stormwater management system. In addition to beautifying our neighborhoods, trees and vegetation absorb rain and filter pollutants that might otherwise end up in our rivers and streams.
Tips:

  • Plant trees, shrubs and ground covers to filter pollutants and reduce stormwater runoff.
  • Plant native vegetation and choose plants that require little or no fertilizer.
  • Compost yard debris instead of raking it into streets where it can wash into, and block, storm drains.
  • Use compost or mulch to hold moisture in the soil and control weeds.
  • Use fertilizers and pesticides sparingly.

Getting Around Town

Cars and other motor vehicles are a major source of pollution in our rivers and streams. Motor oil and other substances wash from the streets into waterways, where they can harm wildlife, fish and ecosystems. Tips:

  • Ride your bike, take Trimet, or walk when possible.
  • Keep your engine well-tuned and make sure seals, gaskets and hoses don’t leak.

Responsible River Recreation

We’re lucky to live at the confluence of two rivers, where we can boat, fish, swim, and enjoy nature. Help take care of our rivers by treating them responsibly. Tips:

  • Don't dump trash from your boat.
  • Watch for fuel spills when you fill your gas tank.
  • Reduce your wake near the shoreline to minimize erosion.
  • Use soap without phosphates to wash your car or boat, or use a car wash that recycles water.
  • Use steel sinkers or washers instead of lead sinkers when you go fishing.
  • Use oil absorbent materials to catch drips from the fuel intake and the vent overflow.

Walking the Dog (and Maybe the Cat, Too!)

Responsible pet ownership means more than licensing and vaccinating your pet. It also means controlling your pet’s interactions with wildlife and natural areas, and cleaning up after them outside. Tips:

  • Unleashed dogs can chase and harm birds, fish, and other wildlife in natural areas. They may also disturb breeding areas or harass wintering wildlife. Portland City Code requires that all dogs in parks must be kept on a leash unless in a designated off-leash area.
  • Dog and cat poop is essentially raw sewage; it contains harmful organisms like E. coli, Leptospira, and Roundworms. These organisms can be contracted by other animals, wildlife, and even children. Bacteria from poop can wash into rivers and streams when it rains, so be sure to pick it up wherever it lands and dispose of it in the trash.

Your Toilet Isn’t a Trash Can!

Many things – if flushed down toilets or poured down drains, can damage sewers, causing a backup into your home or releasing sewage into the environment. Fish don’t want sewage in their homes any more than you do! Tips:

  • Your toilet is designed to flush away human waste and toilet paper only. Anything else that goes down a toilet can clog sewer pipes – both public sewers and the pipe that connects your home or business to the sewer.
  • Products advertised as flushable – like some wipes and diapers – don’t break down in water and frequently block sewer pipes.

Help Us Help the Environment 

There are many ways you can get involved in protecting and restoring our natural areas in Portland. Here are just a few examples:

  • Become a Green Street Steward and volunteer to help maintain a green street in your neighborhood. Visit https://www.portlandoregon.gov/bes/greenstreetsteward to learn more.
  • Report pollution. Someone washing paint down a storm drain, a strange looking discharge coming from a pipe on the river, or sewage coming out of a manhole are just a few examples of the kinds of issues Environmental Services investigates. To report pollution, call the spill hotline at 503-823-7180.
  • Learn about our watersheds. Portland sits at the confluence of two major river systems, the Columbia and the Willamette. Everyone in Portland also lives in the watershed of a smaller local stream or waterway. Find your watershed on our interactive map, and explore some of the watershed improvement projects happening in your neighborhood: https://www.portlandoregon.gov/bes/32197.