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Homeless and living in an RV: Environmental Services pilot program collected wastewater from 192 RVs in 3 months; pollution prevention program extended

News Article
Following the success of a three-month pilot pollution prevention program, Environmental Services is continuing collecting wastewater from people who are homeless and living in RVs. Call BES’ spill response hotline at 503-823-7180 to request RV collection.
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Environmental Services is pleased to announce that the City has received $780,000 in funding from the federal American Rescue Plan to continue and expand the RV pollution prevention program. The funds are part of $63.6 million in federal funding City Council is considering today. 


July 13, 2021- original news release - The City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services collected wastewater from 192 RVs in a three-month pilot program to prevent pollution and deliver basic sanitation needs to people without stable housing who are living in RVs parked on city streets. The pilot began in mid-March and continued through the end of June.

Environmental Services is announcing the continuation of the pollution prevention pilot program for another three months as it seeks more stable longterm funding. The program addresses the connected challenges of safely disposing of human waste and protecting community health and the environment from spills.

“The pilot is working. Environmental Services is successfully preventing unintended discharges to the environment and respectfully addressing the sanitation needs of our homeless neighbors who are living in RVs for lack of better options,” said Commissioner Mingus Mapps. “I am pleased to announce the program will continue for the next three months with the goal of extending it further as the City continues to work on developing more short and long term housing options.”

Currently, people living in RVs have limited disposal options. There is no RV waste disposal station within the City of Portland, with the closest one in Tigard. While some RV occupants dispose of waste safely in neighbors’ sewage systems, in other cases waste is illicitly discharged to a green street planter, the street, or storm drain that can lead to a city waterway.

Environmental Services funded the initial $10,000 cost of the March-through-June pilot through its spill response and pollution prevention program. Environmental Services is adding another $10,000 from those funds and seeking  an additional $60,000 from the federal American Rescue Plan and other sources to continue the program through June 30, 2022.  

“Pollution prevention is more cost effective, humane, and protective of public health and our environment than responding to reports of discharges,” said Environmental Services Director Mike Jordan. “We anticipate the need will continue and possibly increase in the short term as we all navigate and address the pandemic’s economic after effects.”

The program collects has two collection methods: Contract crews established regular Friday routes based on field reports from City staff. They also respond to requests made by members of the public.

Crews met pump out needs throughout the City, with areas that had 10 or more RVs as follows: 13 RVs at Delta Park; 13 RVs at NE 33rd and Marine Drive; 12 at SE 110th Avenue and Foster Road; 10 at N Kerby Street and Hayden Meadows Drive.

This pilot program is one of several initiatives the City is pursuing to address Portland’s homeless crisis and develop stable housing options for all Portlanders. Additional related community resources include:

Members of the public can ask for an RV to be pumped out by calling Environmental Services’ Spill Response hotline at 503-823-7180 where messages are returned the same day, or online at https://www.portland.gov/bes/report-spill-or-pollution.

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The City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services - your sewer and stormwater utility – provides Portlanders with programs to protect water quality and public health. Services include wastewater collection, treatment, and resource recovery; sewer, stormwater, and green infrastructure construction and maintenance; and stream and watershed restoration. Find out more at www.portland.gov/BES