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Downtown Urgent Sewer Repairs Project

Sewer and Stormwater
Environmental Services has completed construction of urgent repairs to 3,600 feet of 140-year-old public sewer pipes in downtown Portland that were in very poor condition. At a high risk of collapsing, the pipes required repairs to protect buildings and streets from sewage releases and flooding.
Environmental Services has completed construction for this project.
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Originally installed between 1867 and 1917, most of the pipes were built within two to three decades after Portland was founded in 1845. The collapse and failure of these pipes would have severe consequences to the Portland Downtown Neighborhood, the Central Business District, and the Downtown Core. The urgent repairs completed with this project will make the pipes last another 65 years, increase their resiliency to earthquake damage, and help prevent sewage releases into downtown buildings and streets.

Project Area

The project boundary is SW Ankeny Street to SW Market Street between SW Naito Parkway and SW 12th Avenue.

Map of pipe work locations for Downtown Urgent Sewer Repairs Project

What's Happening Now

On Friday, February 11, 2022, crews completed the two remaining sewer service lateral repairs and restored the pavement where they had to dig in the street. 

No further field work is scheduled for this project. 

A Note of Appreciation

On behalf of the project team, Environmental Services thanks all of our downtown property owners, property managers, business owners and operators, residents, and social service organizations for your patience and cooperation during this challenging sewer repair project. We asked a lot of you these past two years. 

We know that construction was disruptive and especially difficult for residents who were homebound during the pandemic, for businesses who were trying new ways to provide services and attract customers in extraordinary times, and for people experiencing homelessness. We appreciate everyone working with us to help keep our community and crews safe.

The Downtown-Old Town Sewer Repair Program

Environmental Services is continuing our work to assess the condition and capacity of Portland's aging sewer system serving Downtown-Old Town neighborhoods and to construct the necessary repairs and upgrades. Public sewer pipes in these neighborhoods were originally installed in the mid-1800s after Portland was founded in 1845. 

Having provided 100 to 150 years of service, the pipes are showing signs of cracks, breaks, holes, offset connections, and root and grease obstructions. If these pipes were to collapse, causing basement flooding and sewage releases to buildings and streets, the consequences would be catastrophic for downtown neighborhoods, whose businesses are so important to our local and regional economy.

The program also addresses nonconforming sewer connections and, where possible, provides properties an individual and direct connection to the public sewer system.

The sewer system repairs and upgrades are designed and constructed by Environmental Services and its contractors and are supervised by its engineers, inspectors, and safety officers. Community outreach professionals work directly with businesses and residents throughout the course of the projects.

We Want to Hear from You

Environmental Services will inform residents and businesses about program activities and respond to questions and concerns in a timely manner. The following resources will help you stay informed and report concerns: 

Sign Up for Updates

Sign up for periodic email or text message updates for Downtown-Old Town Sewer Repair Projects through our free GovDelivery subscription service. These updates are the best way to stay informed about what’s happening and what to expect. You can also sign up for bulletins on other projects and topics. 

Project Background

The information below provides details about the Downtown Urgent Sewer Repairs Project, how the sewer repairs and system improvements were constructed, the public impacts associated with the work, and the coordination with community partners necessary for successful design and construction of the project. 

Construction Methods

The public sewer pipes in this project have defects that require urgent repairs to avoid their collapse. The city's goal is to repair the majority of pipes using trenchless methods, such as pipe lining. Some areas that cannot be lined will require spot repairs, where crews will dig small trenches to replace short sections of pipe. Other areas will require sewer cleanout installations to enable the pipe lining repair work. This approach will avoid having to dig long trenches in downtown streets to replace whole pipes later.

Sewer Cleanout Installations

A sewer cleanout is a capped opening above the sewer service lateral that connects a building to the mainline public sewer. It enables crews to access and repair that connection. Cleanouts will be used to maintain sewer service during the pipe lining process, and to provide access for future maintenance.

Cleanouts are typically installed near the curb but may also be placed in the sidewalk or near the building. Sewer cleanout installation requires digging a hole where the cleanout will be located. This construction creates noise, vibration, and dust. Each cleanout installation takes up to two days to complete. 

Spot Repairs

Crews will dig small trenches using Open Trench Excavation so that crews can replace short sections of broken pipe that cannot be lined. Crews will dig a trench, remove the section of broken pipe, install a section of new pipe, backfill the trench, apply a temporary pavement patch, and then repave the patched area after the work passes inspections. 

Top Hat Liner Installation

The top hat liner installation is trenchless, so there will be no digging in the street or sidewalk. Crews will work at maintenance access holes to insert the liner. A bypass system will be in place to ensure uninterrupted sewer service.

The liner is called a “top hat” because it is shaped like a top hat. When installed, it will create a leak-proof connection between the City-maintained mainline public sewer pipe and the private property-maintained sewer lateral pipe. The top hat connection will seal gaps and help prevent tree roots from intruding into the pipe.

Cured-in-Place Pipe Lining (CIPP)

Crews will use CIPP to repair most of the mainline sewer pipes and service lateral connections. The pipe lining process involves inserting a flexible liner inside the old pipe, inflating the liner, and exposing it to heat or ultraviolet light to dry and harden the liner inside the pipe.

You may smell an odor like plastic or glue during CIPP that will dissipate quickly once the process is complete. The odor is from chemicals in the liner resin. The amounts detected by an independent industrial hygienist are below health risk levels.

To keep the resin odors from entering your home or business through your private sewer, fill any floor drains and infrequently used sinks with a small amount of water. This water will collect in the bend in the drain and block odors from the sewer.

If a resin odor is already in your building or residence, cover basement floor drains and open windows to allow ventilation. If the odor continues, call City Maintenance at 503-823-1700.

Learn more about CIPP.

What to Expect During Construction

Crews will use Cured-in-Place-Pipe Lining (CIPP) to repair most of the sewer service laterals and mainline sewer pipes. CIPP involves inserting a flexible liner inside the old pipe, inflating the liner, and exposing it to heat or ultraviolet light to dry and harden the liner inside the pipe.

Service Lateral Pipe Lining

The lateral pipe lining work will occur during a combination of daytime and nighttime work hours. Crews will set up the work zone, install the pipe lining, reconnect properties to the repaired lateral pipes, remove the sewer bypass system, clear out equipment from the work zone, and remove traffic controls. It will take approximately one to three days on each block to complete the repairs.

Mainline Sewer Pipe Lining 

The mainline pipe lining work will occur during a combination of daytime and nighttime work hours. It will take approximately one day to set up the sewer bypass system, one night to line the sewer pipe, and one morning to remove the bypass system, clear out equipment from the work zone, and remove traffic controls.  

A vactor truck will be in the area to maintain sewer service during the lateral lining and the mainline pipe lining. Vactor trucks create noise and can operate for hours at a time.

Security patrol will be present to monitor the work site at night.

Public Sewer Extensions and Service Laterals

The work to construct and install public sewer extensions and sewer service laterals will occur during regular daytime work hours, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and Saturday as needed. Because the construction of public sewer extensions and service laterals require sawcutting pavement and excavating small trenches, this work must be done during the day, not at night.

Pavement Restoration

Crews will grind down the temporary asphalt patches, remove any cracks and ruts, place a new layer of asphalt on top of the surface, and level it off. The patched trenches where crews had to dig in the street will have a fresh new asphalt surface.

Traffic Controls

The city's contractor is working with the Portland Bureau of Transportation on traffic control plans necessary to complete the urgent mainline sewer repairs as quickly as possible. You can expect some on-street parking removal, traffic delays in and around the work zones, restricted or closed travel lanes, and restricted pedestrian crossings. Sidewalks will remain open. Local access will be provided to parking garages and businesses.

To avoid circling around construction to find parking, please use SmartPark garages. The nearest SmartPark garages are illustrated on the project map.

Extreme Weather

When high temperatures, extreme heat, near freezing temperatures, or extreme cold are in the weather forecast, crews may adjust schedules to protect workers from the dangers of heat stress and cold stress. When working in extreme weather environments, all City workers, contractors, and subcontractors must follow Oregon’s OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) mandates and Environmental Services’ Heat Illness Safety and Health Plan and its Cold Stress Safety and Health Plan. You may see crews taking more frequent water and rest breaks, stopping work at noon, and taking other protective measures during extreme weather.

Coordination with Community Partners

Construction in downtown Portland requires coordination with multiple partners, including but not limited to the following:

  • Private Property Owners and Property Managers: We coordinate access to downtown buildings to investigate sewer and stormwater connections, determine basement layouts and utility vault locations, and install private plumbing modifications as needed to complete public sewer repairs.
  • TriMet: We ensure that our construction activities along MAX light rail tracks and bus routes do not conflict with public transit system improvements during the project.
  • Portland Bureau of Transportation: We apply for and comply with street use permits, on-street parking permits, approved traffic control plans, and construction contract specifications that reduce public inconvenience.
  • Contractors, Subcontractors, and Suppliers: We coordinate our work with contractors, subcontractors, and material and equipment suppliers, many of whom are serving multiple priority infrastructure projects for the City of Portland.
  • Downtown Businesses: Our goal is to reduce construction impacts to downtown businesses and their customers as much as possible. To avoid circling around construction to find parking, please use SmartPark garages. The nearest SmartPark garages are illustrated on the project map.
  • Downtown Residents: Our goal is to reduce construction impacts to downtown residents, hotel guests, and the houseless community.
  • Event Managers: Our goal is not to interfere with major downtown events.
  • Safety Officers: Our top priority is public health and safety—for our work crews and for the public—so we need to plan and schedule our work in a way that reflects that priority.

This project will help protect the health of the Willamette River Watershed.