December 9 2021
4:26 AM
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Heavy weekend rains with Sewer Overflow to Willamette River at N Burlington and Edison

Story by The Oregon Herald Staff
Published on September 20, 2021 5:26 AM
The Bureau of Environmental Services advises people to avoid contact with the Willamette River in that part of town for 48 hours. Many of Portland’s older neighborhoods have a combined system. In a combined system, sewage and stormwater are carried in the same pipes to the treatment plant. Before the Big Pipe Project was completed in 2011, these neighborhood pipes used to fill up and overflow to the Willamette River or Columbia Slough when it rained. Now the Big Pipe Project has eliminated 94 percent of overflows to the Willamette and 99 percent to the slough.
PORTLAND, Oregon - (September 19, 2021) - Heavy rains led to a combined sewage overflow Sunday from maintenance hole at N Burlington and Edison to the Willamette River in Portland.

The overflow began at approximately 1:30 a.m and stopped at 1:40 a.m. The volume of the overflow is unknown at this time.

As a precaution, people should avoid contact with the Willamette River in that area for at least 48 hours after the discharge has ended because of the possibility of increased bacteria in the water.

A combined sewer overflow (CSO) is about 80 percent stormwater and 20 percent sewage. CSOs are rare and can occur during periods of heavy rain or snowfall. Since completing the Big Pipe project in 2011, a 20-year $1.4 billion program to reduce overflows, the number of CSOs have dropped by 94 percent to the Willamette River and 99 percent to the Columbia Slough.

The Big Pipe project constructed a series of improvements, from disconnecting downspouts on homes to allow rainwater to be absorbed naturally in the ground to the construction of big pipes on both sides of the river and along the slough to store and convey large quantities of flows to the Columbia Boulevard Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Before the project, CSOs occurred to the Willamette River from multiple outfalls an average of 50 times a year, with some instances lasting days. Today, overflows occur an average of four times per winter season, and once every three summers.

This is the first CSO since January 2021.

Find out more information about CSO events, what they are and why they occur at

The Bureau of Environmental Services provides city residents with programs to protect water quality and public health, including wastewater collection and treatment, sewer construction and maintenance, stormwater management, and stream and watershed restoration. Visit and follow us on Twitter for news @besportland.