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The City of Portland, Oregon

Environmental Services

working for clean rivers

Phone: 503-823-7740

Fax: 503-823-6995

1120 SW 5th Ave, Suite 613, Portland, OR 97204

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News Release: Ready for Willamette River swimming, boating and playing? “Check the Rec” to see water quality test results

graphic saying view sampling results

(June 20, 2018) - At the start of summer, the City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services is announcing the return of its weekly water quality testing on the Willamette River.

Thanks to the Big Pipe project, the Willamette River is largely free of sewer overflows and resulting bacteria, making the river clean for swimming, boating and other recreation.

How clean? Each week during summer months, Environmental Services tests for E. coli bacteria as well as water temperature at five popular public recreation spots. The tests reflect E. coli from all sources – people, pets and wildlife. They are conducted on Wednesdays and posted by Friday morning – in time for weekend activity. The public is invited to  “Check the Rec” to view test results.

Last year, 100 percent of test results were well within state health guidelines.graphic saying view sampling results

“The Big Pipe has made a big difference. As sewage overflows have dropped, interest in recreation has increased and through Environmental Services’ testing program, people can see test results for themselves,” said Environmental Services Director Mike Jordan.

“Environmental Services’ testing program began because people asked: Is the river water clean enough to swim and play? The testing program shows that the answer is ‘yes.’”

Environmental Services and Portland Fire & Rescue offer these additional river tips: Many factors affect safety on the river, including temperature, currents, and debris, as well as people’s ability in the water. Cold water is good for migrating salmon and other fish, but water below 70 degrees can be uncomfortable and unsafe for people.  People can find out river temperature in addition to bacteria levels through  

While bacteria levels are the biggest health concern for swimming and other direct recreation, the public also is advised to be alert for trash, or any discoloration such as a blue-green sheen, which could indicate toxic blue-green algae. Those instances are rare as well. The state issues algae advisories. Environmental Services issues advisories in case of bad bacteria readings or sewage releases.

Check the Rec at  View test results for this season as well as last year’s complete test results and other Willamette River information.

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 The Bureau of Environmental Services provides city residents with programs to protect water quality and public health, including wastewater collection and treatment, sewer construction and maintenance, stormwater management, and stream and watershed restoration. For news updates, follow @BESPortland on Twitter and visit

 Media contact: Diane Dulken (503)457-7636