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COVID-19 Safety, Recovery and Resilience

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Environmental Services continues critical services during COVID-19 emergency; focuses on public health and environment

Press Release
During the COVID-19 emergency that affects us all, Environmental Services is taking extra measures to protect the public and construction crews as we continue to collect and treat wastewater from every household in Portland and work to upgrade the city’s aging sewer and stormwater infrastructure.
Published

New signage coming to project sites: Critical work in progress, precautions in place 

Graphic shows sign that will be used at Environmental Services work sites stating that COVID-19 precautions are in place and asking people to stay 6 ft away from workers.

More than one-third of Portland’s 2,500 miles of sewer pipes are over 80 years old. Environmental Services has about a dozen projects currently underway to replace or repair aging infrastructure. These construction projects reduce the possibility of sewage releases into homes, streets, rivers, and streams. You can find a list of construction projects at www.portlandoregon.gov/bes/construction

Many of these sewer repair projects also include adding green infrastructure — such as green street planters and rain gardens. These natural solutions help collect and filter stormwater to reduce the burden on the sewer and stormwater system and protect our rivers and streams.

Crews on all sites have been directed and supported to follow CDC guidelines for protecting themselves and the public. Protocols are in place for social distancing, hygiene, and safety. City inspectors are on site to monitor work and ensure that these protocols are followed.

To further protect the public and crews, Environmental Services will post signs asking the public to maintain a healthy distance from staff who are conducting field inspections and maintaining pipes, pump stations, and other infrastructure.

Emergency repairs

While construction projects are geared to preventing sewage releases, emergency breaks do occur. City crews work 24/7 to respond to reports of sewage releases such as the broken pipe that led to sewage reaching Fanno Creek earlier this month.

What you can do

  • Report sewage backups, sewage releases to a public space, or a storm drain problem 24/7 by calling 503-823-1700.
  • If you see us in your neighborhood, keep your distance – Protect yourself and our crews by staying at home. If you’re outside, keep at least a 6-foot distance, wear a mask, and follow health official guidelines as they develop. Stay inside if you experience any COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Start your Weed Workout – What’s that? If you have a garden or yard, you can #StayHomeSaveLives and get outside. Do you know that some of the fastest growing plants are weeds? Some of those can be invasive and escape from your yard to take root in natural areas. You can help your yard, our watersheds, and your well-being by getting a weed workout. Bend, pull, dig, and stretch. Our Green Street Steward Weed Identification Guide shows the best way to rid your garden of common weeds.
  • Prevent sewage backups and clogs in your home. Only flush toilet paper. Never flush wipes – not even ones marked “flushable.” Pour used cooking oil and other grease into cans, let cool (it will turn from a liquid into a solid), and place in the trash. For more tips, go to www.portlandoregon.gov/bes/FatFreePipes
  • Stay Home, Save Lives – As you stay home to save lives from COVID-19, our construction crews have benefited from reduced traffic around work sites. We thank you for responding to the public health emergency by continuing to adhere to Governor Kate Brown’s mandatory Order 2012.

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. Find out more about BES: www.portlandoregon.gov/bes.