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Houseless and living in an RV? Environmental Services launches pilot pump out program

News Article
The pilot program is being launched to safely dispose of human waste and wastewater from RVs on city streets and prevent environmental contamination
Published
Updated
A crew member in safety vest and gloves is kneeling by an RV and inserting a house to pump out wastewater
A crew member pumps out wastewater from an RV holding tank on Friday, the first day of Environmental Services pilot RV pump-out program.

Environmental Services on Friday  launched a pilot program to provide sanitation pump-out services for people who are houseless and living in RVs that are parked along city streets.

The program addresses the connected challenges of safely disposing of human waste and protecting community health and the environment from spills.

Currently, people living in RVs have limited options. The only approved way to dispose of waste from an RV is at a public dump station, whose numbers are limited.  Too often, waste is discharged to a green street planter, the street, or storm drain that can lead to a city waterway.

“Pollution prevention is always preferable to clean up. I am proud of Environmental Services for stepping up to a growing need and providing services in a respectful, dignified way for our houseless community as well as protecting our rivers and waterways from human waste,” said Commissioner Mingus Mapps.

Environmental Services started the pilot after noting an uptick in reports of illegal disposal and in an effort to address the source instead of cleaning up after discharges.

The program’s first day was Friday. Crews served nine vehicles in an area in North and Northeast Portland, and one in Southeast. Crews expect to be able to collect up to 2,000 gallons of wastewater from sinks and toilets per day and service up to 20 vehicles per day.

 Crews will establish regular routes on Fridays based on field reports from City staff and be available as needed during other days of the week. Crews plan to alter routes each week and seek to determine the demand for this service as well as how often follow-up servicing is needed. They can also make minor repairs to the RVs to ensure safe and reliable sanitary pumping.

Environmental Services will continue the pilot through June under a limited budget of $10,000 and evaluate next steps.  The program is patterned after a similar pilot in Seattle.

“Our houseless neighbors are among our most vulnerable community members. As the City creates longer term housing options, this pilot helps address an immediate sanitation need and benefits our entire community,” said Environmental Services Director Mike Jordan.

This pilot program is one of several initiatives the City is pursuing to address Portland’s homeless crisis. Additional related community resources include:

Environmental Services duty officers respond to pollution reports from a variety of sources that affect the City’s storm and sewer system, and ultimately public health and our rivers and streams. If you see a discharge from any vehicle or other type of pollution from any source such as soap suds, motor oil, or other liquid or leaking waste in  the street, call Environmental Services 503-823-7180 or use https://www.portland.gov/bes/report-spill-or-pollution.

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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. @BESPortland www.portlandoregon.gov/bes

Correction 3/25/21: Crews expect to be able to collect up to 2,000 gallons of sink and toilet wastewater per day and serve up to 20 vehicles. The original news release misstated the number of gallons that could be collected.