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Portland Bureau of Transportation

Phone: 503-823-5185

Fax: 503-823-7576

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

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Easy Care for Storm Drains

What are storm drains?

How do storm drains get clogged?

What are the consequences of clogged storm drains?

How can you help keep storm drains clean?

How should I dispose of leaves and debris?

Getting help

Managing stormwater in Portland

How to report a clogged storm drain or stormwater drainage problem

What are storm drains?

The grated storm drains that you see on almost every street corner allow rain water to drain from city streets.  They are especially important during storms when the high volume of water falling on streets would otherwise cause flooding.

Also known as catch basins, storm drains are the entryway from our streets to our sewer system or stormwater facilities and represent the first step in stormwater collection and disposal. The city has 58,000 of them.  On rainy days, rainwater and anything else on the streets enter storm drains.  Click here to view, or download, a two-page document on Catch Basin Care.

How do storm drains get clogged?

Storm drains have grids to prevent large objects from falling into the sewer system. However, the bars are fairly widely spaced so that the flow of water is not blocked. Consequently, many objects fall through.

What are the consequences of clogged storm drains?

When storm drains (also known as catch basins)  get clogged with recently fallen leaves and debris, water can no longer be drained from the street. Water ponds along streets and can flood intersections and homes. Localized street flooding can be a hazard to the traveling public.

Contrary to popular belief, pet wastes, oil and other materials dumped into catch basins do not always go to the wastewater treatment plant, but instead may flow directly into streams and rivers. For example: dumping oil into a storm drain can have almost unthinkable consequences. If it reaches a river, lake, or stream, five quarts of oil can create a slick as large as two football fields and persist on mud or plants for six months or more.

It is important to monitor and clean catch basins to prevent street flooding, property damage, and hazards to the traveling public.

How can you help keep storm drains clean?

Stand on the curb and use a rake or pitch fork to clear leaves, limbs, and debris from the catch basin. Do not attempt to remove the grate, only the debris on top of the grate.  Place leaves in your yard debris rollcart for easy removal and recycling.

The best time to inspect the storm drain in front of your house or business is before a rain storm. Monitor and clean the catch basin in the fall when the trees are shedding their leaves. When the forecast calls for heavy rainfall or snow and ice, remove debris from the catch basin  before a storm. After a storm, maintain the openings to catch basins by clearing away any snow or ice. Create a 10 to 12-inch path along the curb for melting snow and ice to drain to the catch basin. 

How should I dispose of leaves and debris?

When you are clearing your sidewalk or driveway, please do not rake or blow the leaves from your yard into the street.

Leaves in the street become slippery and pose a hazard to travelers, especially people walking or bicycling.

What to do: Place leaves in your yard debris rollcart for pickup by your recycling and garbage hauler. If you have too many for one yard debris container, simply bag them and place them next to the roll cart for pickup.

Getting help

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.   Please regularly inspect storm drains in front of or near your house and remove debris.

If you see a catch basin filled with debris below the grate, or if you cannot clear the basin near your property yourself, notify the City that help is needed. Call 503-823-1700 and report the particular location. Never attempt to remove storm drain grate, only the debris on top of the grate.

Managing stormwater in Portland

The federal Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, and Endangered Species Act direct the City of Portland to improve stormwater quality and protect watersheds, rivers, streams and drinking water resources. With the exception of storm drain 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 catch basins 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 catch basins, and 4,700 miles of streets. PBOT also maintains 351 trash racks, 141 miles of ditches, and 23 miles of culverts.

Report a clogged storm drain or stormwater drainage problem at 503-823-1700.