Imagine if every time you showered, washed your clothes, or flushed your toilet you had to collect and store all the water you used. Think about what it would be like to transport all that water to a place where you could remove pollutants and make it clean enough to pour into a local river or stream without harming you, your community or the environment. The typical Portland household uses nearly 3,800 gallons of water each month. It’s not hard to imagine how challenging, time consuming, and even unpleasant that chore would be for most of us.
But Portlanders don’t have to do that because the Bureau of Environmental Services works to protect water quality, public health, and the environment. We collect and treat wastewater, construct and maintain sewers, manage stormwater, and restore streams and watersheds.
The public sewer system serves Portlanders every day. Some of the sewer and stormwater infrastructure is above ground, like the green streets that manage millions of gallons of stormwater. But much of it is underground or not accessible to the public, so we rarely see it at work.
Sewer infrastructure includes a system of 2,500 miles of sewer pipe, more than one third of which is over 80 years old. The pipes carry wastewater to two treatment plants that are staffed around the clock every day of the year. If something goes wrong with the system, sewer maintenance staff are available to respond 24 hours a day.
Environmental Services is committed to safety on its job sites - for the public, contractors and employees. In fiscal year 2015, just nine on the job injuries required medical attention. That rate is well below industry safety standards.
Environmental Services sewer construction jobs often use local contractors, providing jobs in the community. Many of the contractors are minority or woman-owned businesses or emerging small businesses.
Restoring Watershed Health
Here’s what we did last year with community partners:
- Planted over 3,400 new street and yard trees to soak up stormwater runoff in our neighborhoods
- Planted nearly 33,000 new native trees in natural areas and along stream banks to improve water quality and provide habitat
- Managed invasive species on more than 2,400 acres in the city to protect forests and streams
Read Portland’s new Watershed Report Cards to learn about conditions in Portland’s rivers, streams and watersheds, what’s improving and where we need to do more.
Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs)
- Portland’s West Side and East Side Big Pipes captured and treated more than 99% of the city’s combined sewage and stormwater in fiscal year 2015. In calendar year 2015, the combined sewer system overflowed to the Willamette River just six times.
- Before the city activated the Big Pipes, there would have been about 50 overflow events during that same period.
Columbia Boulevard Wastewater Treatment Plant
- Portland’s Columbia Boulevard Wastewater Treatment Plant processed more than 28 billion gallons of wastewater in 2015.
- Average flow through the treatment plant last year was over 77 million gallons per day.
- Last fiscal year, the city inspected 761,460 feet of mainline sewer pipe, or about 144 miles of pipe.
- The city inspects sewers in response to sewer problems, in advance of sewer construction projects, and to support root removal and grease management programs.
- Sewer pipes clogged with grease or tree roots are common maintenance problems.
- The sewer cleaning program cleaned 1,892,804 feet of sewer pipe last year, or about 358 miles of sewer pipe, to prevent maintenance problems.
- City crews repaired nearly 10,000 feet of mainline sewers in fiscal year 2015, or nearly two miles of sewer pipe.
- About 60 percent of the repairs were in response to maintenance problems. The rest were planned repairs of problems detected by sewer line inspection.
- In 2015, Environmental Services installed over 92,768 feet of new sewer pipe, or nearly 18 miles of pipe.
- Environmental Services completed 42 sewer construction projects last year.