Sing it with us. Portland has Big Pipes.
You’ve probably seen the bulletins during periods of intense rainfall about sewage overflows in the Willamette River. While this stinks, events like this used to happen at a clip of 50 times a year, making our city’s waterways unsafe for most recreation, not to mention the environmental impacts.
Enter the Big Pipe Project, a massive system of underground infrastructure that took 20 years (1991-2011) and $1.4 billion dollars to complete. Thanks to this massive investment, combined sewer overflows (CSOs) on the Willamette River have fallen by 94% and those on the Columbia Slough saw a 99% reduction. Talk about a glow up.
Here are some more interesting facts:
- The East Side Big Pipe Project is the largest sewer construction project in the city’s history. At 6 miles long and a diameter of 22 ft, you could stack 360 MAX trains end-to-end inside of the tunnel.
- On average, four CSOs occur every rainy season, with one every third summer.
- To eliminate 100% of the CSOs, the project cost would have doubled to $2.8 billion.
- Green infrastructure (trees, rain gardens, and wetlands) help to mitigate the amount of stormwater that is sent to the sewers, as do other cornerstone projects like downspout disconnections.
- As a homeowner or renter, you can save up to $130 a year with the Clean River Rewards program for allowing rainwater to safely soak into the ground on your property (versus entering city drains).
- Environmental Services’ tracker provides level updates at 15-minute increments.