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Water | Environment

Big Pipe Project Holds Up Under Record March Rains

Despite record rainfall in March, the city of Portland was able to prevent sewers from overflowing into the Willamette River.

This March was Portland’s wettest month ever, with a record-breaking 7.73 inches of rain. It was a test of a billion-dollars worth of upgrades to the city’s sewer system.


The upgrades were designed to prevent combined sewage and stormwater from spilling out into the Willamette River during heavy rains. The last of the projects wrapped up in December.

Dean Marriott is the environmental services director for the City of Portland. He says the new system passed the test with no sewer overflows in March.

“So far, so good. The river’s muddy and it’s carrying a lot of sediment, but it doesn’t have any sewage in it, which is really good news. We had two storms in March that would’ve triggered a CSO event that was allowed by the feds and the state. And neither happened. I think because we did such a good job of designing the system and managing the system,” Marriott said.

The city is legally allowed four overflows a year. But so far it has only had two this winter – both in December and within the legal limits.

This story originally appeared on Oregon Public Broadcasting.

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