Heavy rain causes sewer overflow into Willamette
Nearly two inches of rain Wednesday caused a rare combined sewer overflow in the Willamette River.
The Bureau of Environmental Services, which operates the city's sewer system, urged people top avoid contact with the river from just south of the Sellwood Bridge downstream to the Willamettes confluence with the Columbia River near Kelley Point Park for 48 hours after the overflow ends.
The public can check the status of current CSO advisories at www.portlandoregon.gov/bes/overflow or call the River Alert hotline at 503-823-2479.
According to BES, it is especially important to avoid recreational activities, such as jet skiing or swimming, during which water could be swallowed. CSOs are contaminated with bacteria from untreated sewage.
BES recommends these precautions to protect public health: People who fish within 48 hours of a CSO event should wash their hands following contact with river water. Those who choose to eat fish caught in the Willamette River within 48 hours of a CSO event should cook the fish thoroughly to kill bacteria.
Portlands combined sewer system carries sewage and stormwater runoff in the same pipes. During very heavy rainstorms, the increased stormwater runoff can cause combined sewers to overflow into the Willamette River.
In December 2011, Portland completed a 20-year program to improve the sewer system and reduce Willamette River CSO events from an average of 50 per year to no more than four per winter and one every third summer.