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City of Portland Scopes Sewers. You Should too.

The cover story of the June 2, 2010 Willamette Week reports on issues surrounding Portland’s sewer system.  According to the report, 12,000 homes are at risk of sewer backups due to aging and clogged lines beyond the curb- homeowners are responsible for the lines from the house to the curb. Why are homes with good lines at risk?

“The work is increasing,” Shephard says. “The system is aging, and we only have so much money. We’ve got pipe that was made in the ’50s that isn’t holding up very well and some pipe nearly 100 years old that is beyond its life cycle.”

The problem is pretty simple. Every day, the sewage from Portland’s 570,000 residents flows from homes into a series of successively larger pipes. The average single-family home might be connected by a 4-inch pipe to the 12-inch-diameter pipe running down the middle of a neighborhood.

Those 12-inch lines connect to slightly larger lines, which feed to even larger lines. By the time they reach the Willamette (or now, the Big Pipe), those lines are large enough for 6-foot-6-inch Blazers star Brandon Roy to stand inside comfortably.

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Portland map of at risk areas for sewer backupThe Big Pipe Project will be finished next year but the problem is in the pipes before waste ever makes it to BPP.  As a sewer user, you can help keep it flowing.  Grease and cooking oil clogs lines (as do diapers, guns, bags of marijuana, etc).  If you don’t put them into the system, they won’t clog down the line.

The City manages a downspout disconnection program which may make you eligible for Clean River Rewards.  We disconnected our last renovation project by digging a dry-well into the driveway and diverting all storm water into it.

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