Groundwater Protection Program

Groundwater Protection Area Street Sign - To Report Spills Call 503-823-7180
Just like our rivers, our groundwater must be protected. The cities of Portland, Gresham, and Fairview have implemented the Groundwater Protection Program to protect the Columbia South Shore Well Field, a source of drinking water for nearly one million Oregonians.
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About the Groundwater Protection Program

The Groundwater Protection Program helps prevent chemical spills that could seep into the ground and pollute drinking water. Businesses within the wellhead protection area boundary are subject to regulation if they use certain types and quantities of chemicals. Regulations focus on spill prevention, containment, and best management practices. Pollution prevention is a cost-effective way to protect our groundwater resources and requires the cooperation of everyone living and working in the protection area.

Businesses regulated under this program

Your business may be regulated under this program if:

  • your business is within the Columbia South Shore Well Field Wellhead protection area boundary, and
  • your business uses chemicals over set threshold amounts.

What is the protection area boundary?

The protection area boundary shown on the map below was developed using a sophisticated computer model that estimates how groundwater moves underground. A 30-year time-of-travel boundary was established to maximize groundwater protection. 30-year time-of-travel means that it would take 30 years for a drop of groundwater to move from the protection area boundary to a drinking water well. The Portland Water Bureau also has an extensive monitoring well network to detect any potential threats to the City’s drinking water wells.

map along Columbia River of the well field protection area between Portland airport and Blue Lake Park

Which chemicals are regulated?

The table below summarizes the types of chemicals and quantities of chemicals regulated under the Groundwater Protection Program. You can find more information about regulated chemicals and threshold quantities in Section 1 of the Reference Manual, linked below. Concentrations of the chemical must exceed 10 percent to be regulated.

Halogenated solvents pose the greatest risks to groundwater due to their density and ability to travel easily through the ground. Therefore, the threshold amount for halogenated solvents is only 10 gallons. Products that contain halogenated solvents include industrial cleaners, glues, and degreasers.

Regulated chemicalsThreshold quantity

10 gallons or 100 pounds at ≥10% concentration by weight

Hazardous substances on EPA’s “List of Lists”

50 gallons or 400 pounds at ≥10% concentration by weight

DEQ hazardous wastes

30 gallons or 220 pounds, at any concentration

Petroleum products, except fuels

50 gallons or 400 pounds at ≥10% concentration by weight, stored in any single container with capacity >50 gallons

Petroleum-based liquid fuels
(such as gasoline and diesel)

50 gallons or 400 pounds, stored in any single container with capacity >50 gallons

What are regulated businesses required to do?

  • Follow chemical storage guidelines
  • Report your regulated chemicals annually
  • Train employees on how to handle hazardous materials (see section below)
  • Familiarize yourself with our reference manual and implementation guide

Resources for training employees 

Regulated businesses must provide annual training to employees who handle hazardous materials. If you already have training programs in place, you might only need to amend your program to include information about risks to groundwater.

The training must include the following:

  • Risks to groundwater from the handling and use of hazardous materials
  • Locations of Safety Data Sheets (SDS)
  • How to read an SDS
  • Contact information in the event of a spill
  • Review of Annual Hazardous Materials Inventory Report
  • Review of Facility Information Report
  • Potential risks a spill may pose to groundwater
  • Spill response procedures

Use the following presentation to train your employees:

Regulated businesses may use this video presentation to fulfill their annual employee training requirements. Watch the second half of this presentation to learn how to submit the required annual hazardous materials report.

Print, fill out, and hang one of these spill signs in a visible place at your business, or contact us for free durable signs. The local contact number on the sign is different in Portland, Fairview and Gresham, so make sure you select the correct one for your location.

Technical assistance for regulated businesses

Free technical assistance is available to regulated businesses through the Columbia Corridor Association (CCA). Contact the association by email or call 503-287-8686.

The City’s goal in its partnership with the CCA is to assist Columbia South Shore businesses in assessing their compliance issues and planning to bring their businesses into compliance. With the CCA, we produce educational materials, host workshops, and provide technical assistance.