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The City of Portland, Oregon

Portland Water Bureau

From forest to faucet, we deliver the best drinking water in the world.

Customer Service: 503-823-7770

GENERAL INFORMATION: 503-823-7404

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March 18 Update: NE 23rd Ave. and Skidmore Main Break

A replacement pipe is transported to the work site by Portland Water Bureau crews.

Water Bureau crews have completed the repair of the 30-inch water main at NE 23rd and Skidmore St. that ruptured on Saturday. The 30-inch pipe that failed is a 1915 cast iron transmission main that supplies drinking water to in-town storage facilities but does not directly provide water to customers. A final determination has not been made as to the cause of the pipe failure, but age could have been a factor. On average, Portland Water Bureau crews respond to 200 main breaks a year, which is relatively low when compared to cities of similar size.

 “This was a very rare event and the largest main break we’ve dealt with,” notes Maintenance and Construction Director Ty Kovatch. “Thank you to everyone who was affected for their patience as our crews conducted repair work.”

Property owners, residents, and businesses in the affected area who may have a potential claim can contact the City of Portland Risk Management division at (503) 823-5101.

Work remains for the Water Bureau and our partners at the Portland Bureau of Transportation who will need about one to two weeks to excavate and rebuild the road. Travelers are encouraged to avoid the area in the coming weeks as crews conduct their work.

For additional public health information related to this incident, such as how to safely dispose of water in a basement, visit https://multco.us/multnomah-county/responding-safely-portlands-water-main-break.

Find additional information about this main break event here.

March 17 Update: NE 23rd Ave. and Skidmore Main Break

Water Bureau crews continued working overnight to reduce the flow to a level where they could begin excavating the main. 

Sunday and Monday, crews will continue making progress by reducing flow, excavating and installing shoring so they can safely enter the site. Then crews will replace this badly damaged section of main. 

Because of the challenging conditions, this work is estimated to continue into the beginning of the week of March 18. As some of the largest pipe in the system, this results in more water and more pressure. While making this repair, crews will install a new valve to help ensure more shutdown options and dependability in the future.

"We have continued to make gains against water flow, but more is needed. The work will take time. We will get it done!" said Maintenance and Construction Director Ty Kovatch.

Homes and businesses continue to have water service because this is a transmission main, not a service main. Sediment in the water has settled overnight but neighbors near the break may still see some sediment in their tap water.

There is no health risk associated with the tap water but sediment may cause taste, odor and discoloration. People experiencing this may choose to drink bottled water until it clears. Water Bureau recommends flushing taps for two minutes until water clears and repeating as necessary.

Water still flows at a lower rate down the street and into catch basins. The public is advised to not touch water in the street because of various safety hazards. 

The public should still avoid the immediate area around Northeast 23rd and Skidmore. Some areas near the break are closed to thru traffic.

For updates, follow @PortlandWater on Twitter.

MEDIA ADVISORY 3/16/19: NE 23rd Ave. and Skidmore Main Break

Portland Water Bureau crews are responding to a transmission water main break that occurred at NE 23rd Avenue and Skidmore Street. Crews are working to stop water flow in area streets, which has led to widespread road closures in the area from NE 21stto 30th avenues and from NE Alameda Street to Rosa Parks Way. The main is a 30-inch cast iron pipe.

PWB has succeeded in significantly reducing water flow in the main break area. Crews are continuing work to reduce the flow so they can safely access the pipe and make repairs.

The public is advised not to touch standing water. However, there are no health risks from drinking or using the tap water. (Additional information below.)

Water began flowing into the street around 11:30 a.m. Portland Fire and Rescue crews responded to evacuate 12 homes and provide other coordination efforts. Throughout the afternoon, more than 60 firefighters were engaged. 

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler responded to the scene to assess the City’s response and advise the public.

“I want to thank the community for their patience and for allowing responders to do their jobs. Coordination and communication are critical in addressing incidents such as this. I want to acknowledge the efforts of Neighborhood Emergency Team responders, who are volunteers that have knocked on doors and provided information to neighbors.”

City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, who oversees Portland Fire & Rescue and the Portland Bureau of Emergency Management, also responded to the scene.

City, county and utility officials urge the public to be mindful of the following safety and traffic considerations:

Tap water: Residents may see discolored tap water in their homes in the affected area. There are no health hazards associated with the sediment in the water. This sediment is always in the water system but it only visible when a change in flow is enough to disturb the sediment. The sediment may affect color, odor and taste. Customers may choose to drink bottled water while they wait for the discoloration to clear.

Standing water: The public is advised to not touch standing water in the street because of various safety hazards.

Sewer backups: As the water recedes, people may experience sewage backing up into homes or businesses in the area. Notify Portland Bureau of Transportation Maintenance Operations Dispatch at 503-823-1700, which is staffed 24 hours a day.

PBOT sewer crews are preparing to clear sewer lines in the area, once the water recedes.

Power: Pacific Power estimates electricity will be restored to all homes by 7 p.m. Saturday night.

Traffic advisory: The public should avoid the immediate area around the break. Use alternate routes if you are traveling in Northeast Portland. Expect to see higher than normal traffic, including people driving, walking and biking on side streets as they avoid the closures. PBOT crews are placing temporary stop signs to provide additional warning to the travelers.

Power in the immediate area was shut off to protect the public. With widespread power outages, traffic signals are out of power in a large area of Northeast Portland, from NE Martin Luther King Boulevard to as far east as Northeast 42nd Avenue. Treat intersections traffic signals out of power as an all-way stop.

Overnight Saturday night, area streets may be darker than normal, so anyone in the area should use extreme caution and drive slowly.

On Sunday, PBOT street sweepers will clean the streets where the flood water spread debris. PBOT crews will assess the damage to area streets and make repairs, which could take days or weeks.

Water cleanup: For additional public health information related to this incident, such as how to safety dispose of water in a basement, visit www.Multco.us and click on “Responding safely to Portland’s water main break.

Sandbags available: PBOT has established a location at Northeast 26th Avenue and Mason Street for sandbags, available for anyone who needs them to protect their property.

Check on your neighbor: If you live in the neighborhood, please check on your neighbor to see if they have immediate needs. The Portland Bureau of Emergency Management is overseeing 30 Neighborhood Emergency Team (NET) volunteers located at road intersections to help keep people away from flooded areas and safety hazards under the water. NETs are Portland residents trained to provide emergency disaster assistance.

The Portland Water Bureau’s Maintenance & Construction crews are ready to respond to emergencies, including water main breaks, 24-hours a day, seven days a week. On average, crews respond to 200 main breaks a year.

For more information, visit portlandoregon.gov/water.

March 15, 2019: Cryptosporidium Monitoring Update

The Portland Water Bureau received results from ongoing monitoring from the Bull Run Watershed intake for Cryptosporidium, a potentially disease-causing microorganism. In the 50-liters sampled daily, between Sunday, March 10 and Wednesday, March 13, two Cryptosporidium oocysts were detected.  One oocyst was detected in a sample collected on Monday, March 11 and one oocyst was detected in a sample collected on Tuesday, March 12. Cryptosporidium was not detected in the samples collected on March 10 or March 13. Prior to these detections, Cryptosporidium was last detected from the Bull Run Watershed intake on March 4.

The Bull Run watershed is Portland’s primary source of drinking water. The Portland Water Bureau does not currently treat for Cryptosporidium, but is required to do so under drinking water regulations. Portland is working to install filtration by September 2027 under a compliance schedule with Oregon Health Authority. In the meantime, Portland Water Bureau is implementing interim measures such as watershed protection and additional monitoring to protect public health. Consultation with public health officials has concluded that at this time, customers do not need to take any additional precautions.

About Cryptosporidium

Exposure to Cryptosporidium can cause cryptosporidiosis, a serious illness. Symptoms can include diarrhea, vomiting, fever and stomach pain. People with healthy immune systems recover without medical treatment. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people with severely weakened immune systems are at risk for more serious disease. Symptoms may be more severe and could lead to serious or life-threatening illness. Examples of people with weakened immune systems include those with AIDS; those with inherited diseases that affect the immune system; and cancer and transplant patients who are taking certain immunosuppressive drugs.

The Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that a small percentage of the population could experience gastro-intestinal illness from Cryptosporidium and advises that customers who are immunocompromised and receive their drinking water from the Bull Run Watershed consult with their healthcare professional about the safety of drinking the tap water. The Portland Water Bureau and Burlington, City of Gresham, City of Sandy, City of Tualatin, Green Valley, GNR, Hideaway Hills, Lake Grove, Lorna Portland Water, Lusted, Palatine Hill, Pleasant Home, Raleigh, Rockwood, Skyview Acres, Tualatin Valley, Two Rivers, Valley View and West Slope Water Districts receive all or part of their drinking water supply from the Bull Run. To learn if your drinking water comes from Bull Run, please contact your local drinking water provider.

More Information

The public and the media are encouraged to view all sampling results posted to the City’s website at portlandoregon.gov/water/cryptoresults. The bureau will notify the media and public immediately should further test results indicate a risk to public health and precautions are necessary.

Customers with questions regarding water quality can call the Water Line at 503-823-7525.

She Flies with Her Own Wings: 3 Women Who Made History in Portland and Beyond

Women’s History Month is a time to remember and celebrate the contributions women have made to our shared history, culture, and society, whether those contributions were made in Oregon or beyond our state’s borders.

To shine a spotlight on women who have made—and continue to make—their marks on the world, we’d like to introduce you to these women whose work has shaped our City and our world.

Dorothy McCullough Lee: Portland’s First Female Mayor

Dorothy McCullough Lee was a trailblazer in Oregon politics. She served as a Congresswoman in the Oregon House of Representatives from 1929 to 1931. After her service in the House, McCullough Lee and Gladys M. Everett created Oregon’s first all-women law firm which operated out of the Failing Building in downtown Portland.

Dorothy re-entered the State Legislature in 1932, serving as an Oregon State Senator until 1943. She resigned from the Oregon Senate to fill a vacant seat on Portland City Council, where she became the first woman to serve on City Council and the first female to lead Portland’s public utility agencies, including what would become known as the Portland Water Bureau.

Dorothy would later become Portland’s first female mayor from 1949 to 1953.

According to historian E. Kimbark MacColl, "Mrs. Lee was probably more qualified by experience and training to serve her office than anyone in Portland's previous history.”

Jean Richardson: Engineer, Mother, Oregon State Graduate

In 1949, Jean Richardson was the first woman to graduate from Oregon State University’s Civil Engineering program. Jean Richardson voluntarily worked for free during the first month of her first job out of college. Her goal: Prove to the company that her work was just as good as the male engineers at the firm. By the end of the month, she made her point and the firm hired her for pay. (How much? And how did it compare to her male counterparts? We can only guess.)

After working in Alabama and taking time to raise a family, Jean returned to Oregon where she became the first woman to head maintenance engineering for the City of Portland where, towards the end of her career, she designed the Columbia Boulevard Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Today, one of Portland’s Aerial Tram cars is named “Jean” to honor her legacy and contributions to the City as a trailblazing female engineer.

Harriet "Hattie" Redmond: Daughter of Slaves, Civic Leader, Suffragette

Harriet Redmond was born in St. Louis, Missouri around 1861 to emancipated slaves Reuben and LaVinia “Vina” Crawford. Her family moved to the Portland area in 1880 where she drew from her parents’ ambitions for freedom to become a prominent leader in the long struggle for Oregon women’s suffrage. The right to vote was especially meaningful to Redmond as a black woman living in a state with black exclusion laws in its constitution. After a decades long struggle, the Oregon Legislature voted to give women the right to vote in 1912. Redmond registered to vote in April 1913.

Redmond died in 1952 and is buried at Lone Fir Pioneer Cemetery among other notable Portland leaders. Learn more about Redmond’s life and contributions to the Portland community on The Oregon Encyclopedia.

Women's History Month from the Oregon Historical Society

Learn more about Oregon’s notable women leaders and the contributions they’ve made to our region. Visit the Oregon Historical Society website.