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City of Portland Warns of Combined Sewer Overflow Into Willamette

OPB | March 29, 2014 2:22 p.m. | Updated: June 25, 2014 2:45 p.m.

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Heavy rain has caused stormwater and untreated sewage from Portland’s combined sewer system to overflow into the Willamette River. The city says the Willamette is potentially contaminated with bacteria from the Sellwood Bridge to its confluence with the Columbia.

English Kayak instructor Nigel Foster leads a group of students on the Willamette, in spite of a combined sewer overflow into the river.

English Kayak instructor Nigel Foster leads a group of students on the Willamette, in spite of a combined sewer overflow into the river.

Amelia Templeton

Avoid touching the water and make sure fish you catch over the weekend are cooked all the way through.

The river was busy Saturday in spite of the warnings. Fisherman were trying to hook spring chinook, and expert kayak instructor Nigel Foster led a class for the Portland Kayak Company on to handle a boat in the wind. He brought disinfectant for his students’ hands and took precautions.

“I want people to stay dry, so on exercises like the one we’re doing now we’re using the dockside to guarantee people aren’t going to get wet,” he said.

Portland recently finished building a $1.4 billion pipe to reduce sewer overflows.

The city says they’ve dropped from 50 a year on average to just four. Link Mann, spokesman for Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services, says Friday’s rain overwhelmed the system. 

“In the space of 17 hours, we had 1.4 inches of rain. Those tunnels can handle up to about 1.2 inches in 24 hours,” he said.

 

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