May 12, 2020

DEQ Seeks Comments on Portland Storm Water Mitigation

Oregon's Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is seeking public comments on its work investigating storm water basins for potential sources of pollution 

storm water

Oregon, Portland’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is seeking public comments on its pending decision that its work investigating storm water basins for potential sources of pollution has been successful. 

For the past 20 years, Portland has spent $12 million to prevent polluted storm water from reaching the Willamette River through its sewer system. This included investigating 39 storm water basins and establishing measures to control its release into the river through the city's outfalls, reported the Portland Tribune.

The DEQ proposes to declare that the measures will protect life in the river and not compromise the cleanup of the Portland Harbor Superfund site.

"DEQ has released for public comment a determination that the city of Portland adequately investigated sources of potential storm water pollution and facilitated effective pollution reduction controls to protect the river," said DEQ Public Affairs Specialist Lauren Wirtis. "This means the river will continue becoming cleaner and safer for fish and other aquatic life, and helps ensure it will not become re-contaminated after cleanup work has begun."

According to DEQ, the system has never been a significant source of the industrial pollution that prompted the EPA to declare a 10-mile stretch of the lower Willamette River in Portland a Superfund site. Most of the pollution may have come directly from industrial businesses that operated in the harbor, many of which discharged wastes directly into the river for years, said DEQ Project Manager Alex Liverman.

Comments are due by 5 p.m. on May 29, reported the Portland Tribune. Comments can be sent to DEQ Project Manager Alex Liverman at [email protected], or at 700 N.E. Multnomah St., Suite 600, Portland 97232.

The Portland Harbor was added to the National Priorities List as a Superfund Site due to high levels of contamination in sediment in December 2000. 

The DEQ and the EPA eventually worked together to develop a source control strategy, which was finalized in December 2005. This strategy included having Portland's Bureau of Environmental Services identify and eliminate potential sources of pollution into the sewer system it operates that discharges into the Willamette River. 

According to the March DEQ report, the strategy has been effective. 

"The evaluation confirms that DEQ's source control programs are effective, contaminant concentrations and loads in storm water discharged into Portland Harbor have been significantly reduced and large-scale threat of sediment recontamination via storm water following cleanup is improbable," according to the report.

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